It seems the signal-to-noise ratio regarding Arizona’s recently-passed SB 1070 is quite low. I’ve seen lots of news depicting harsh opposition to the new law and lots of folks rallying with Arizona in support. What’s interesting is that the claims of the bill’s supporters are generally not addressed by those crying “foul”—and yet opponents of this bill are quick to propose boycotts and otherwise smear the intentions of those in Arizona who would like some respite from this problem they share with a few other border states. Some critics have admitted to not having read the bill (which in itself is a bit astonishing, since it can be easily read here in PDF format).
State Senator Sylvia Allen wrote an open letter defending Arizona’s new law, attempting to provide some insight into why such a law is even sought. I encourage you to read her letter and see for yourself some of the claims she makes. Arizona has plead for years to the federal government to do something to secure what is an international border, but these pleas have been generally ignored.
But that’s not all there is to it, of course. Lots of people have taken numerous opportunities to criticize Arizona for such barbarism as enforcing their laws (horrors!), including Mexico’s most honorable president Calderon! And I’ve recently seen an attempted rebuttal to Ms. Allen’s defense made by William Fisher at The Public Record.
So what? Isn’t debate a healthy means of refining good ideas and weeding out bad ones? Sure. But that’s not what’s happening here. Instead of posting the text of Ms. Allen’s letter or the rebuttal by Mr. Fisher, I’ll post excerpts—which will reveal some of the problems with this national “debate”.
It would seem opponents are often talking past one another—not addressing the facts themselves, but perhaps straw men or even rebutting mere hearsay. Let’s take a look, first at what Ms. Allen wrote, and then the objection by Mr. Fisher:
(From Ms. Allen’s letter)
The Federal Government has refused for years to do anything to help the border states . We have been over run and once they are here we have the burden of funding state services that they use. Education costs have been over a billion dollars. The healthcare cost billions of dollars. Our State is broke, $3.5 billion deficit and we have many serious decisions to make. One is that we do not have the money to care for any who are not here legally. It has to stop.
(From Mr. Fisher)
I think most immigration experts and reliable economists would agree that Arizona’s fiscal problems are not the result of unlawful entries. In fact, most unlawful entries are of migrants seeking work, contributing a net gain to Arizona’s economy. Contrary to widespread misunderstanding, most undocumented workers pay taxes, including sales taxes and income taxes, which are often withdrawn before the worker is paid. Furthermore, I am not an economist, but it seems more reasonable to suggest that Arizona’s fiscal problems are much more a result of a national and global economic meltdown.
Do you see what’s happening? Ms. Allen says Arizona is facing immediate financial difficulties and needs to make tough decisions to reduce state costs. State services (such as those found in the emergency room at Maricopa Medical Center—the county-run hospital) are tapped by many in the state illegally, and this is something Arizona can no longer afford to support. Mr. Fisher, on the other hand, claims that the presence of those in Arizona illegally are actually making a positive fiscal gain. (I tend to doubt that’s the case in the numerous Arizona emergency rooms I’ve visited.) And besides, he says, Arizona’s financial pinch is more likely caused by the same economic morass in which other states and nations are engulfed.
This would be a fine time to introduce some hard statistical numbers to settle these claims, but I’d imagine those may be difficult to assemble since who is and who is not in Arizona legally isn’t currently tracked very well. This new law might clarify some of that through enforcement of better record-keeping among various immigration and law enforcement agencies within the state.
The border can be secured. We have the technology and we have the ability to stop this invasion. We must know who is coming and they must come in an organized manner legally so that we can assimilate them into our population and protect the sovereignty of our country. We are a nation of laws. We have a responsibility to protect our citizens and to protect the integrity of our country and the government which we live under. I would give amnesty today to many, but here is the problem, we dare not do this until the Border is secure. It will do no good to give them amnesty because thousands will come behind them and we will be over run to the point that there will no longer be the United States of America but a North American Union of open borders. I ask you what form of government will we live under? How long will it be before we will be just like Mexico, Canada or any of the other Central American or South American country? We have already lost our language, everything must be printed in Spanish. We have already lost our history, it is no longer taught in our schools, and we have lost our borders.
I think what I’d most like to get across to you is that reforming the immigration system and creating legal avenues for migration is the way to improve border security and traffic flows at the border. I can’t believe that you think that “securing the border first” means that there will be absolutely zero crime or unlawful entries. Heck, this is an expectation for law enforcement that cannot be serious, given that all communities have criminal incidents. To be perfectly frank, Senator, I find this a shortsighted and reactionary response to an over-hyped perception of border violence that is not borne out by evidence.
What? Mr. Fisher blatantly attacks a straw man with, “I can’t believe that you think that ‘securing the border first’ means that there will be absolutely zero crime or unlawful entries.” Ms. Allen never made such an assertion. This is a fallacious way to debate, and therefore invalid. Attempts to secure the border should drastically reduce those who walk—unopposed—across private and public land to enter this country. And if such traffic is reduced, perhaps we’ll see more cultural assimilation and less cultural division.
If you read the rest of the article by Mr. Fisher, you’ll see he’s not taking the position that border security and immigration law reform ought not be done, but that Arizona should not and cannot do this acting alone. And though this may be true, Arizona is the only one currently making the attempt. As anyone living in Arizona knows, the federal government certainly hasn’t done anything to solve (or even reduce) this problem.
From my reading of this bill, Arizona is attempting to coordinate state-wide offices in efforts to enforce current immigration law. Several times it points to existing federal or state laws and statutes, and seems to primarily sharpen the focus on how local police (for instance) are to handle specific situations (such as trespassing, human smuggling, illegal employment, traffic stops, etc.) involving illegal aliens. If you haven’t read the bill already, I encourage you to take ten minutes and read it yourself.
Will this new law crack down on those in Arizona illegally? Yes, I think it will. Is that a problem? It’s only a problem for those who believe that people in Arizona illegally ought to be allowed to be there illegally. To me that’s a contradictory position to take, since—if true—they really believe there should be no restrictions at this international border. And that is something Arizona no longer finds acceptable.