Where Arizona Went Wrong on Immigration

On April 23rd, 2010, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into legislation one of the strictest anti-illegal immigration measures in decades.    It has sparked nationwide protests  and received international criticism, especially from Latino and Hispanic dominated countries.

The act makes it a state misdemeanor crime for an alien to be in Arizona without carrying registration documents required by federal law, authorizes state and local law enforcement of federal immigration laws, and cracks down on those sheltering, hiring and transporting illegal aliens.  (Source: Wikipedia)

Most Americans agree that the time has come for us as a nation to have a serious debate about immigration and illegal aliens.  Over the past few years the number of illegal aliens entering our country has continued to skyrocket.    

The illegal immigrant population of the United States in 2008 was estimated by the Center for Immigration Studies to be about 11 million people, down from 12.5 million people in 2007.   According to a Pew Hispanic Center report, in 2005, 57% of illegal immigrants were from Mexico; 24% were from other Latin American countries, primarily from Central America; 9% were from Asia; 6% were from Europe; and 4% were from the rest of the world.  (Source: Wikipedia)

Many states such as California, Texas, and Florida, have had to deal with an overwhelming influx of illegal immigrants and its placed a strain on their state and federal resources such as emergency room visits, childcare and in some cases frequent incarceration, all of which is paid for by these respective states. 

State of Residence of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population: January 2000 and 2006
State of residence Estimated population in January Percent of total Percent change Average annual change
All states 11,555,000 100 37 515,000
California 2,930,000 25 13 53,333
Texas 1,640,000 14 50 91,667
Florida 980,000 8 23 30,000
Illinois 550,000 5 25 18,333
New York 540,000 5
Arizona 500,000 4 52 28,333
Georgia 490,000 4 123 45,000
New Jersey 430,000 4 23 13,333
North Carolina 370,000 3 42 18,333
Washington 280,000 2 65 18,333
Other states 2,950,000 26 69 200,000


So the idea of implementing a stringent immigration policy is a good idea, but Arizona dramatically failed in two key facets of their implementation.   First of all, Hispanics make up 30% of the Arizona population, and many of them are Mexican-Americans who are second and third generation citizens.  Most of them support tougher illegal immigration laws, but apparently no one from the Arizona legislature bothered to build consensus among these Mexican-Americans in their efforts to address immigration.

The failure to reach out to this core constituency reflects the arrogance and haste with which their legislature enacted such a controversial law, which basically requires Arizona state police to racially profile suspected illegal aliens.   And this is why the new law has created so much controversy—-imagine African-Americans being randomly asked to provide ID and proof of citizenship in an effort to prove that they’re not illegal African immigrants.

The other facet that Arizona failed to consider is how to actually implement their new immigration law.    Since the burden of enforcing this new law ultimately falls upon their state police, they could have simply increased the number of random DUI and license check stops in the areas where they have the most illegal alien arrests.  This would have helped to serve notice to those communities and businesses that hire illegal aliens that the State was cracking down on illegal immigrants.

However, the real problem that Arizona and many other states face is not the deportation of illegal aliens, but their inevitable return to the U.S.   Many of those Mexicans who are arrested and sent back to their home country typically return within a few days via elaborate underground tunnels and clandestine trucking operations.   

The L.A. Times reported a while back on the discovery of numerous underground smuggling tunnels which are well lit and insulated, and most likely sponsored by the drug gangs.  In some  cases they originate in a Mexican warehouse and culminate into a Mexican affiliated warehouse in many parts of Southern California and Arizona.  These tunnels are the lifeline for notorius drug and people smugglers, known as “coyotes” or “wolves of the border” dating back to 1923.

Recently, Arizona’s request for an additional 250 National Guard to secure their border was denied by the Department of Defense.   This may seem like a knee-jerk denial by the Obama administration, but in reality the Governor has the authority to call in the National Guard at her disposal, except in this instance, she clearly wants the Federal government to pick up the tab. 

Arizona should be working with the Obama administration on a full scale effort to uncover these tunnels and permanently plug them up.  Otherwise, they’re simply spinning their wheels and wasting resources in their attempts to eject illegal aliens.

Until this aspect of immigration is addressed, the U.S. will continue to be inundated by Mexicans and other immigrants who find it easy to not only enter our country, but return on a repeated basis, without hindrance from our government.


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