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Friday, May 07, 2010

Mike Rosen v. Ben Franklin on the Arizona immigration law

"I've been asked to show my 'papers' when traveling in foreign countries. Big deal. The upside is that by cracking down on illegals in their state, Arizonans . . . will be protected from trespass and violent crime, and save hundreds of millions of dollars in education, medical, social services and criminal justice spending associated with illegal immigrants. I'd take that tradeoff."

--Mike Rosen, "Arizona is just taking a stand," Denver Post 5/6/10.

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

--Ben Franklin.

Part A

Rosen also states in the column that the Arizona law requires that "[t]here must first be behavior and a legitimate law-enforcement incident justifying a stop, detention or arrest." If it did, the law would not be quite as bad.

It does not.

The law requires "a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person" merely upon "any lawful contact by a law enforcement official." Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 11-1051.

If Rosen were correct, the law would require the inquiry to be made "incident to a lawful stop." There is a world of difference between a lawful "stop" and lawful "contact."

The police must have a valid reason to stop someone. The police no need reason to contact you. The Arizona law would kick in upon an officer saying "hello" to you. That is lawful contact.

This may seem like silly word games, but that's what lawyers and judges do: they define words. The words "stop" and "contact" have definitions. Words are chosen based upon those definitions. The Arizona legislature could have required law enforcement to inquire about immigration status "incident to a lawful stop." They deliberately did not. They require it upon any "lawful contact."

That is objectionable.

Part B

At least Rosen hints at the real problem when he notes that illegal immigrants cost "hundreds of millions of dollars in education, medical [and] social services." He is correct.

But this demonstrates that we have less of an illegal immigration problem than we do a giving-away-free-stuff problem. Less free stuff = fewer undocumented aliens. Our government incentivizes illegal immigration by giving away resources to illegal immigrants. The illegal immigrants are the symptom. Free stuff is the problem.

The U.S. must have laws regulating immigration. We cannot allow criminals or terrorists into our country. But every dollar we spend on trying to keep out someone that is simply willing to work and meet American demand for goods and services is a wasted dollar. Not only is the law enforcement dollar wasted, the cost of the good or service the immigrant wishes to provide goes up.

Some of us believe in free markets - including the labor market. A large portion of a our immigration laws exist merely to protect American labor unions from competition - at the expense of the American consumer.

What is the answer to this difficult policy problem? Helen Krieble's Red Card Solution is a good place to start. It is worthy of discussion.

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