On Friday, April 23, 2010 Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed an immigration bill into law that is considered to be among the toughest in the United States. The law will make it a crime to not carry immigration documents. It will give local police the power to stop and arrest people suspected to be in the country illegally even if they aren’t suspected of any other crime. Opponents call it a license to discriminate. Supporters say it is essential to securing Arizona’s border.
Critical thinkers must ask, is it legal and is it ethical for a police officer to force a person to produce identification if he or she is suspected of entering the country illegally? Racial profiling is illegal, but isn’t that exactly what this law encourages? Does the need for security supersede the right to basic civil liberties?
What is legal is not always ethical. Breaking a promise is not illegal, but it is unethical. While campaigning, Obama promised to make fixing a broken immigration system a priority in his first year of the presidency, but it’s been more than a year and little has been accomplished.
President Obama has criticized the Arizona bill as misguided. He spoke at a naturalization ceremony for 24 active-duty service members on Friday and said that the Arizona bill threatens “to undermine basic notions of fairness which we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”
While presidents rarely comment on state legislation, the fact that Obama has been so vocal about criticizing the Arizona bill and praising congressional leaders for their bipartisan plans to reform immigration speaks to the power of the immigration debate in this country. There has been no action on the federal level and that is why Governor Brewer was forced to pass this bill. She said, “the law represents another tool for our state to use as we work to solve a crisis we did not create and the federal government has refused to fix.”
A congressional immigration debate would help mobilize Hispanic voters and could potentially help some Democrats fighting to keep their seats like Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) once again. A debate on immigration would also take the focus off other Democratic issues Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) priotizes like energy measures, however. An honest conversation on immigration seems to frighten Democrats.
Recently, the debate over border security was intensified following an Arizona cattle rancher’s murder. Robert Krentz was shot to death on his farm in March. His death drew attention to the threat of ongoing drug-cartel violence because the border is not just a human-smuggling route, it is also a drug-smuggling corridor. In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder called the Mexican cartels a “national security threat.”
Why has Obama failed to live up to his promises and why does he praise plans that have yet to show results?
Brewer further argues that immigration reform is essential for securing the border of Mexico and Arizona. Most Americans agree that immigration reform and border security are priorities. But critical thinkers must ask, how do we accomplish both while maintaining our cherished civil liberties?