Arizona’s immigration law: Bad idea, bad solution

Immigration status is one of a number of topics that people have strong opinions about but not always a strong knowledge base.   It is a topic that is also complicated by the potential for ethnic bias.  Not everyone with concerns about immigration is biased, but groups identified as hate groups or nativists group consistently have the same views on immigration.  Many seem unaware that 30 percent of undocumented immigrants are not from Hispanic nations.

Latinos and other peoples of color have been ill treated by many sectors of society for many years.  Some decades ago in Longmont, Latinos were told that they could not live West of Main Street.  Latinos in Longmont were expected to step off the sidewalk when a white person passed. These practices no longer hold, but still Latinos are not always treated with respect.  Representation in elected and appointed positions is dismal in Boulder County and elsewhere.

Having experienced racial profiling most of their lives, Latinos should worry about the impacts of the Arizona law even if the Arizona Governor naively thinks the law will not increase profiling. A federal grand jury investigation is under way amid a slew of complaints that Sheriff Joe Arpaio used racial profiling techniques to round up suspected undocumented immigrants

One only has to look at who wrote the law. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center “Arizona’s controversial anti-immigrant law was written by a lawyer at the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed as an anti-immigrant hate group since 2007. FAIR has an extensive track record of racism and bigotry. FAIR has been dominated for much of its life by its racist founder and current board member, John Tanton, who has written that “for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.””

It is easy to understand why people in Arizona have concerns about activity around the border.  Drug smugglers responding to the huge demand for illegal narcotics in the US have a hugely profitable business which they are willing to defend with violence.  Much of the violence on both sides of the border is supported by fire arms smuggled from this side of the border.  No one wants these violent drug smugglers as we do not want the illegal drug trade to flourish anywhere.  Nor does anyone want individuals who traffic in human beings.

One issue with the new Arizona law is that it is more likely to hassle documented immigrants and US citizens than it will drug smugglers.  It is imperative that dialogue around immigration not confuse working families with drug smugglers or terrorists.  Doing so denigrates hard working families and detracts from the important work of fighting terrorism, drug smuggling, and the devastating impact of illegal drugs on our population.

Most undocumented immigrants are here because the US for the last two decades has not matched the number of work visas with the demand for labor.  The Colorado Agriculture industry has requested and supported the AgJobs bill that allows for undocumented Ag workers who meet certain requirements to have a path to citizenship.  Undocumented immigrants have allowed agricultural and other industries to thrive while paying taxes including Social Security and Medicare payments that they will never collect.  The Colorado ski industry has also required workers that they can not find from the native population and consistently complain that the number of work visas is inadequate.  A situation that is worse for tourist businesses that need workers in the summer.  Both industries have failed to attract sufficient numbers of native workers who will stay on the job.

Many undocumented immigrants would not have left their homeland were their jobs not destroyed by US policy and practices resulting from the unintended consequences of NAFTA.  Sale of subsidized corn in Mexico undermined many farmers.

Yes, the issue of undocumented immigrants is complex and views will vary, but one’s views should consider how we got where we are today and who all contributed to the situation and who all benefited.  Maybe more importantly, we should consider all of the impacts that would occur if all of the undocumented immigrants left the country.  While philosophically this might either please or disappoint you, it would be damaging to many sectors of the economy.  It would reduce tax collections although it would reduce some costs.  It would continue to separate families.

Comprehensive immigration reform is needed.  What we have now is not working for immigrants as well as many citizens.  The reform being proposed by some US senators has something for everyone.  This package as well as all others that have been proposed includes border enforcement, employer sanctions, deportations, paths to citizenship, and the DREAM Act.  Urge our President and our Senators to move quickly.

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