Thursday, April 29, 2010

Behind the Arizona law and illegal immigration

Let me begin by saying that I believe the new law in Arizona requiring police to check documents is unconstitutional on the grounds of usurping federal authority. But what caused the Arizona legislature to pass it, the governor to sign it, and 70% of the citizens of Arizona to support it?

Judging by what I read from UU bloggers, that's a ridiculous question- it's racism, pure and simple; no need to look for any other reason. OK, let's address that head on. According to a Rasmussen poll taken April 21st, "...70% of likely voters in Arizona approve of the legislation, while just 23% oppose it." But according to the US Census Bureau, Arizona doesn't have that many white people- "White persons not Hispanic, percent, 2008 58.4%." Huh. Ok, let's throw African Americans into the mix- (Yes, I know only white people can be racist, but I'm trying to get to the numbers here) "Black persons, percent, 2008 (a) 4.2%." Hmm... that still leaves us way short of 70%. Whatever, no Hispanic would be in favor of it, right? "Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, percent, 2008 (b) 30.1%" Wow, that's 130% of the opposition...

Well, forget the numbers- the law is so outrageous, racism must be behind it, right? What other country would do such a thing? Well, nearly all them, it turns out- including, according to Amnesty International, Mexico: "At present, Article 67 of Mexico's Population Law says, "Authorities, whether federal, state or municipal ... are required to demand that foreigners prove their legal presence in the country, before attending to any issues."

So if maybe there's more than racism at work here, what could it possibly be? Well, let's look at the headlines from Arizona recently... from
"The near-daily kidnappings and home invasions in Phoenix often involve masked gunmen armed with high-powered assault rifles and bulletproof vests, emulating tactical strike-team maneuvers to force others to forfeit drugs or cash. Roughly half of all marijuana seized along the U.S.-Mexico border was taken on Arizona's 370-mile border with Mexico. The targets are usually drug stash houses and their keepers scattered throughout the region. Both the perpetrators and their victims tend to be Mexicans with roots in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Phoenix has long been a destination for Sinaloans, and only the rare kidnapper is not from Sinaloa, according to detectives." Then there's this
NY Times story about Tuscon: "Since officials here formed a special squad last year to deal with home invasions, they have counted more than 200 of them, with more than three-quarters linked to the drug trade. In one case, the intruders burst into the wrong house, shooting and injuring a woman watching television on her couch.... The amount of violence has drastically increased in the last 6 to 12 months, especially in the area of home invasions, “ said Lt. Michael O’Connor of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department here. “The people we have arrested, a high percentage are from Mexico.”

Hmm... I wonder how many of the people looking down their noses at Arizona today would be on their high horse if they had 200 home invasion assaults in a single year in their own home towns. Well, if nothing is done, they may get the chance to find out- from the same article:
"Tucson is hardly alone in feeling the impact of Mexico’s drug cartels and their trade. In the past few years, the cartels and other drug trafficking organizations have extended their reach across the United States and into Canada. Law enforcement authorities say they believe traffickers distributing the cartels’ marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs are responsible for a rash of shootings in Vancouver, British Columbia, kidnappings in Phoenix, brutal assaults in Birmingham, Ala., and much more.
United States law enforcement officials have identified 230 cities, including Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston and Billings, Mont., where Mexican cartels and their affiliates “maintain drug distribution networks or supply drugs to distributors,” as a Justice Department report put it in December. The figure rose from 100 cities reported three years earlier, though Justice Department officials said that may be because of better data collection methods as well as the spread of the organizations."

But forget for the moment Arizona's justifiable anger at the federal government for failing to enforce its own laws, or protect their citizens from what amounts to a de facto foreign military invasion. Forget the drugs. Forget the people who talk about jobs. There are still other reasons to address the issue of illegal immigration. Those who argue- and this seems to be a majority of the UUA- that people should be able to "wander free, Where–so us listeth, uncontroll'd of any", are doing more harm than good to the poor and oppressed they would help.

The people of Central and South America, trying to get to the US, find nothing but more oppression in Mexico on the way here, according to
Amnesty International "Rupert Knox, Amnesty's Mexico researcher, said in the report that the failure by authorities to tackle abuses against migrants has made their trip through Mexico one of the most dangerous in the world.
"Migrants in Mexico are facing a major human rights crisis leaving them with virtually no access to justice, fearing reprisals and deportation if they complain of abuses," Knox said.
Central American migrants are frequently pulled off trains, kidnapped en masse, held at gang hideouts and forced to call relatives in the U.S. to pay off the kidnappers. Such kidnappings affect thousands of migrants each year in Mexico, the report says.
Many are beaten, raped or killed in the process."

And what of the people of Mexico itself? Mexico is one of the most corrupt and oppressive regimes on Earth. Any other nation so corrupt would have collapsed decades ago, but the Mexican regime is being propped up by illegal immigration to the US in two ways: first, in the money sent home- until the current recession caused a drop off, it was the largest source of income for Mexico, surpassing even oil; it's still a close second at this moment- and the Mexican government gets a cut during the electronic transmission of these remittances. Secondly, the Mexican government can and does encourage the discontented to come here instead of facing down the corrupt government. That safety valve relieves the oligarchy from any need to address the grinding poverty, the criminal gangs who rule the streets, the bought-and-sold justice.

How bad is it? By some estimates- not the highest- 20% of the population of Mexico has already come here, and
46% of those remaining would come here if they could- including among those who earn well above the minimum wage and are well educated. And those are the people Mexico would need to rebuild its own economy, its own infrastructure- if there was any desire to. But why should they want to? The oligarchs are getting rich, and the people who would in any other country revolt just leave instead- a grand formula, if you're one of those on top. And those here who argue for open borders are unwittingly doing their part in propping up the regime.

UPDATE: As we were debating crime statistics, this was happening in the open desert of Arizona:

Yes, this is coincidental, anecdotal, but... when people don't feel safe in their own homes, it does no good to say, "Suck it up; things are worse in my home town". I think a tipping point was reached when rancher Rob Krentz was shot- he was known to help illegal immigrants; I imagine people thought to themselves, "If he can be murdered on his own land, what chance do I have?"

Look- suppose you have someone dropping bricks off an Interstate bridge. Statistically, you may still have the safest roads in the country. Statistically, you can probably prove that you would actually save more lives by setting up speed traps to lower highway speeds than wasting the manpower chasing one man... but the people will demand you go after what they feel more threatened by. That's what's happening in Arizona- the criminal gangs hiding amongst the normal immigrants are what's terrifying them, and no amount of "Well, in the greater scheme of things..." is going to allay those fears.

UPDATE: UU Blogger Will Shetterly lives in Arizona, and reports, "Emma and I marched with thousands of Tucsonans for immigration reform. There was a very small group of supporters of Arizona idiocy across the park from us, maybe thirty when we got there. (Emma and I were at the end of the march, so some might've left before the march was over.) A point for people who think this is exclusively about racism: at least two of the supporters were Hispanic." This is all I've been trying to say here. While not a good law, and no doubt unconstitutional, it is genuinely popular not because evil KKK types hate Hispanics, but because ordinary people of all stripes feel their government is doing nothing.


TK said...

Thanks for your post, Joel. I'm originally from AZ, and most of my family is still in southern AZ or Phoenix.

Rob Krentz, the rancher who was murdered a few weeks ago, was known to give aid to illegal immigrants who were sick or wounded on his land. His murderer pretended to be an injured illegal immigrant, lying by one of his cattle watering tanks. Rob went over to help him. That's when the assassin shot him.

The knee-jerk reactions to the AZ immigration law upset me greatly, especially shallow, fatuous arguments by folks who have no idea what is going on in the Southwest.

If, up here in the Northeast, the Quebecois drug smugglers were committing 200 home invasions, plus murders, plus all the other narcoterrorist crimes every year, folks around here would pass anti-Francophone Canadian laws faster than you could say "Holy Merde."

By the way, Rob Krentz's murderer also shot and killed Rob's dog.


DairyStateDad said...

With regard to what is done in other countries: I'm pretty certain that most or all have a national identity card. That's very common in Europe, for instance, and people typically carry it the way we carry driver's licenses. But across the political spectrum, people in the US have always resisted the idea of a National ID card. And objection to it is found as strongly on the Right as on the Left. I'd be curious what a poll of Tea Party participants would say about the idea, for instance.

I'm personally ambivalent about the concept. While reflexively opposed to a national ID card, I'm open to debating the idea. But let's have a straightforward, public debate on the concept.

As for the poll results, unless you have a demographic breakdown of the poll participants, the demographic breakdown of the general population makes no, or at least very little, difference in sorting how where that 70% support is coming from.

Joel Monka said...

DSD- I, too, am opposed to a national identity card, but that's not what this law is about. This law does not permit random identity checks- such as I have encountered in foreign countries. This law was copied from the already existing federal law; checks are to be done in the course of other police activities- the kind in which one is expected to show ID. And although Citizens don't have to carry proof of citizenship, resident aliens are required by federal law to carry their green cards at all times. There is nothing new in this law except that it's a state law, rather than a federal law. (which is probably where it will be found unconstitutional) The only reason for the passage of this law was the failure of the federal government to enforce its own laws.

While we cannot determine from breakdown of the 70% support from the data in the article, (though I believe the raw data is available), there is no way to get to 70% from white racism if only 58% of the populace is white.

Strange Attractor said...

70% of people who voted in the election is not the same thing as 70% of the population.

Statistically, white Americans are more likely to vote than minorities so the numbers may be a it skewed.

DairyStateDad said...

But if you are a US Citizen, and you are stopped for breathing while Hispanic, how do you prove you're a citizen without an ID card?

And how many illegally-in-the-US, say, Irish people will be demanded to produce a Green Card under this new law?

On the poll issue, I think you miss my point: We don't know the demographics of the respondents. If (to make up a number) the poll respondents were 85% white, then the 70% could be all white. We simply don't know without demographics on the poll, and until we do know those we can't draw any conclusions just by looking at the actual demographics of the state.

Chalicechick said...

The "oh, our crime rate is so terrible" argument IS compelling. But the FBI crime statistics just don't bear it out when you compare Arizona's large cities to other large cities around the country.

DC's murder rate is twice Phoenix's. Phoenix is three times DC's size and had 5,316 violent crimes last year compared to DC's 4,044.

We just don't have another group to blame for it. I'm sure that if there was some immigrant group and our murder rate was exactly the same, DC residents would be falling all overthemselves to scapegoat, DC just doesn't have that option.

The Border Patrol has a specific way of doing their checkpoints. The BP method is intrusive, but fair. Arizona police CAN follow the BP's lead and do the checkpoints in a non-racist manner, but the law does not reqire them to administer it fairly and frankly, lack of racism is not something Arizona police are known for. The Justice Department is in the middle of a federal Civil Rights investigation of well-known tea partier Sheriff Joe Arpaio focusing on his treatment of hispanics.


Paul Oakley said...

Joel, you describe why the legislation got enough support to pass. However, equally important is why it got written to begin with. See what Rachel Maddow reports about the on-the-record positions of the drafters and promoters of the current law: here.

Joel Monka said...

CC- Murder is not the only crime by which to judge a crime rate (Although Tucson bucked the national trend by having an increase in homicide)- there are other quality of life type crimes that have a huge effect on the public morale and public impression, which is what we're talking about here. Some such crimes, like home invasion robberies, the FBI doesn't even keep separate statistics on- but the public is terrified by them.

If you look at the NY Times article I referenced, you'll find this: "“Five years ago a home invasion was almost unheard of,” said Assistant Chief Roberto VillaseƱor of the Tucson Police Department. “It was rare.”" About today's rate, they said, "Since officials here formed a special squad last year to deal with home invasions, they have counted more than 200 of them, with more than three-quarters linked to the drug trade." As for Phoenix, "The city’s home-invasion squad, a sergeant and five detectives working nearly around the clock, was organized in April. Phoenix assembled a similar unit in September to investigate kidnappings related to drug and human smuggling. In the last two years, the city has recorded some 700 cases, some involving people held against their will in stash houses and others abducted." When you're talking about a major crime of any sort, 0 to 200 in one year or 0 to 700 in two years is enough to scare the public, but even more so when it involves feeling unsafe in your own home.

If it's scapegoating, then it's bipartisan scapegoating- the situation is much worse today than it was in 2005 when then Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona declared a state of emergency, saying, "Both federal governments let us down - there doesn't seem to be any sense of urgency," in a joint press conference with Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico- ""This is an act of desperation," Mr. Richardson said in a separate phone interview, adding that border problems had gone beyond illegal immigration to violent crime. He said the action would provide resources "until Congress and the feds deal with this issue," but added, "it is not a political move - I never mentioned the Bush administration." (from the NY Times Today, from her position as head of Homeland Security, Napolitano is sending another Predator drone to Texas, adding to the fleet of five already used for border patrol.

Chalicechick said...

Of course the Democrats are getting in on it. When the economy is bad, hating on immigrants is a guaranteed political winner.

According to the FBI, Tucson had 9 murders in the first half of last year. Fort Wayne, Indiana is roughly twice the size of Tucson and had the same number.

The FBI does track burglaries. Phoenix's burglary rate is around 50 percent higher than DC's. But again, DC's murder rate is double, and if you look at property crimes in general, DC catches back up.

Going entirely on the chronic lawbreakers I personally have known, I find the idea that people would go to the trouble of getting here just to commit some burglaries highly questionable. Most small time criminals of the burglarizing type are fundamentally pretty lazy. I would be very surprised if the crime rate among illegal immigrants were higher than the crime rate of citizens of similar economic status.

who freely admits that what happened to Mr. Krentz is terrible, but who knows of plenty of other terrible things that have happened when the police got out of control.

Chalicechick said...

(((Yes, this is coincidental, anecdotal, but...)))

Is really all that needs to be said.

We should not be infringing on people's civil liberties to solve a problem that only kinda exists if you squint and look really close and/or if you're the sort of person who only sees crimes that are committed by types of people that you don't like.

Hysteria can not win this one. When judges say "hard cases make bad law," this is the situation they are talking about. The death of Rob Krentz, who sounds like a great guy, makes this a hard case. This is a bad law.