The call by the State of Arizona to have local and state police now conduct “legal status” checks on anyone questioned by the police is the result of a deeper issue. The Arizona legislature and the people of Arizona are simply responding to the failure of the Federal government to respond to the growing issue of illegal immigration and the increasing state of crime, and drug-related violence in Arizona. Enforcing immigration laws and the status of aliens has always been the responsibility of the federal government, formerly, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and in recent years, the Department of Homeland Security, but in instances where the states have stepped in, the status of an individual can be pursued in the process of a law-enforcement stop. Recent polling indicates that over 70% of the population in Arizona, including Latinos legally residing in the state, support the new law.
Let’s review of few salient points in the analysis of this issue that are being misrepresented by activists, the press and even law-makers and policy-makers. Police will not and cannot, under the laws of the United States simply and arbitrarily stop and detain people without “reasonable suspicion”. The standard of “reasonable suspicion” has long been established by the Supreme Court and sets the guidelines under which police can stop, detain and question people pursuant to the investigation of a crime. It is only within this context of a police stop, when police see and believe a crime has been committed or is about to be committed, based on “reasonable suspicion”, that they can then further ask the individual about their legal status. It is this standard of “reasonable suspicion” that establishes this window of detention and questioning. The next standard established by the Supreme Court of “probable cause”, established the standard by which police can make an arrest.
The “Nazi” tactics being screamed about by those opposed to the new legislation, have never existed in our country and would never be tolerated under our civil rights laws and any police practicing such arbitrary tactics would himself or herself be exposed to arrest for a federal violation of the law. “Racial Profiling” is another term being screamed by those opposed to the new law. Yes, police profile situations and suspects all the time and thankfully, they do. But profiling by police is never based solely on race. It is based on the totality of a situation. Race may play a role, but the way someone is dressed, their conduct, nervousness, hands in their pockets, whatever the variable, plays a role. My doctor profiles me for heart disease each year when I go for my annual physical taking into account my weight, my cholesterol, my age, eating habits and the like. Profiling by professionals, including the police is standard and expected practice. Just as my doctor can see and hear things I would never notice, police hear and see things on the street the average person would never notice.
The idea that local and state police in Arizona where the crime rates have skyrocketed in recent years, have the time and inclination to simply stop people based on race and their own alleged prejudices is ludicrous and insulting to their professionalism.
Let’s go back to Arizona and the 800 pound Gorilla in the room. The fact of the matter is, predatory street crime and violence in Arizona is off the charts in recent years. Phoenix, which just a few years ago, barely ever saw a kidnapping now tops the national chart with nearly 400 kidnapping last year! Street crime, including assaults, murders. and gang-related violence is through the roof. The people of Arizona are desperate and the enactment of this law is a call for help. The huge up-tick in crime in a border state like Arizona is directly related it’s shared border and to the crime and violence related to drug cartel activity on both sides of that border.
Cartel violence in Mexico has led to the death of over 20, 000 Mexicans in the past 5 years and has brought the northern states of Mexico to a near state of anarchy. The Calderon administration has bravely responded and has made significant inroads on the dismantling of the powerful and violent cartels but the carnage continues. That violence has “spilled over” into the border states, particularly Arizona, where gangs acting as surrogates for the cartels carry on their stateside activities of drug distribution, collection of proceeds and the enforcement of their “laws” through violence and retribution. Yes, we in America, are the primary drug “marketplace” so we are the end-game in the drug business and that distribution and collection activity goes on here and the violence associated with it.
Americans are not inherently anti-immigration…we are all immigrants, one, two or three generations removed but we are opposed to crime and violence. We want good productive folks to immigrate to our country just as our grandparents did… but we don’t want criminals and we don’t want those would bring harm and huge costs, both socially and in dollars and cents, to our society. Both the U.S. and Mexican economies are interdependent on one another. The frustration with Washington policy-makers to come up with a simple, viable guest-worker program is beyond frustration. This could be accomplished through a basic application process and criminal background check that would hugely benefit everyone but that’s a discussion for another day.
In the final analysis, President George Washington said, “we are not a country of men, we are a country of laws”. We are a country of laws and we have the right and the responsibility to enforce those laws. The people who are screaming that we don’t have a right to respect and enforce the laws of our sovereignty are of a mindset or a culture that doesn’t have any respect for the rule of law nor an understanding of it’s vital role in a society that protects and preserves the democratic rights of every individual and concept of “justice for all”.