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 Newsmax.com:
"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.