The new Arizona immigration law is described in nearly every MSM article as “controversial.”
And I suppose it is, if by “controversial” you mean the usual definition of arousing “strong disagreement.” The word also fits the bill, however, if you are going by the definition that appears fourth from the bottom in that link I just gave: “anything a liberal doesn’t like.”
It is certainly true that each side disagrees with the other, and feels strongly about its own position. But the sides are hardly equal in size. If popularity enters into the calculation of whether a certain decision is controversial or not, this particular Arizona law would be considered one of the least controversial in recent memory, since it is supported by fully 70% of Arizona’s likely voters, with only 23% opposing.
The national figures are only slightly less powerfully in favor of the law, with 60% supporting and only 31% in opposition. And when the liberal rhetoric used to attack the legislation (such as, for example, accusations that it smacks of Nazism and is tantamount to apartheid) is stripped away, it’s hard to see how can it be controversial to attempt to enforce a general policy (illegal immigrants shouldn’t be here) that has been on the books—and supported by most people—for decades.
How can it be controversial to do what all nations do: decide on immigration limits, make rules about who can legally enter a country and who cannot, and actually try to enforce those rules?
These things outrage two groups: illegals themselves, and the liberals/leftists who believe that making any such rules is unfair, and that any attempt to actually enforce them in an effective manner is tantamount to the worst racist excesses committed during the 20th century. And, in the fight against those common sense efforts, opponents of the law (including first and foremost our very own president) draw on the full force of misleading and obfuscating language to do the work of stirring up still more controversy.
I don’t think it’s working—at least, so far. But if so, it’s not for lack of trying. It’s not just the “apartheid” charges. It’s there in Obama’s proclamation on the matter, which states:
…[T]he recent efforts in Arizona…threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans as well as the trust in policies and their communities that are so crucial to keeping us safe.
As usual with the president, his language is purposefully vague, uplifting, meaningless, and/or Orwellian. I would have thought that “basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans” would include playing by the rules and abiding by the laws, and enforcing them against those who break them—but hey, maybe that’s just me. For Obama, “fairness” is a screen word like “justice,” one that sounds good at first, but of which we might say, like Inigo Montoya in “The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Obama turns the word “fairness” on its head. The law is actually an attempt to implement basic notions of fairness, not eliminate them (see further discussion of its actual provisions a bit later in this post). And if “trust in policies… that are so crucial to keeping us safe” has been undermined in recent years (and it certainly has), this is a consequence of the failure of the federal government to enforce its own immigration laws (and especially to police the borders), not of this new law, which is Arizona’s attempt to take over where the feds have been negligently remiss.
One of the main tools of the law’s opponents is misrepresentation of the law itself. As Byron York points out:
Has anyone actually read the law? Contrary to the talk, it is a reasonable, limited, carefully-crafted measure designed to help law enforcement deal with a serious problem in Arizona…
The law requires police to check with federal authorities on a person’s immigration status, if officers have stopped that person for some legitimate reason and come to suspect that he or she might be in the U.S. illegally. The heart of the law is this provision: “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency…where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person…”
Critics have focused on the term “reasonable suspicion” to suggest that the law would give police the power to pick anyone out of a crowd for any reason and force them to prove they are in the U.S. legally…
What fewer people have noticed is the phrase “lawful contact,” which defines what must be going on before police even think about checking immigration status. “That means the officer is already engaged in some detention of an individual because he’s violated some other law,” says Kris Kobach, a University of Missouri Kansas City Law School professor who helped draft the measure. “The most likely context where this law would come into play is a traffic stop.”
As far as “reasonable suspicion” is concerned, there is a great deal of case law dealing with the idea, but in immigration matters, it means a combination of circumstances that, taken together, cause the officer to suspect lawbreaking. It’s not race — Arizona’s new law specifically says race and ethnicity cannot be the sole factors in determining a reasonable suspicion.
Ah, but who cares about the facts when the rhetoric is so much more likely to stir up “controversy?” Even Rasmussen has fallen prey to a mistaken idea of what this law is. Although the Rasmussen report doesn’t offer the exact language of the question asked in its polls, here’s the first paragraph of the Rasmussen article on the subject:
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer last week signed a new law into effect that authorizes local police to stop and verify the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds that 60% of voters nationwide favor such a law, while 31% are opposed.
No, it doesn’t do that at all. But the word gets spread and the meme grows: Arizona police are allowed to stop people on the street for the crime of being Hispanic. That perception serves the purposes of the liberal and leftist element that’s running the country right now. Trying to correct the misconception may be a losing task, but it’s a worthwhile one nevertheless.