A constitutional policy
Hilary Lazarus’ May 26 article titled “Arizona Law Borders on Ethnic Cleansing” was ignorant and irresponsible. Unfortunately, Lazarus continues to disseminate lies and stoke fear with respect to the Arizona law in particular and the issue of illegal immigration in general. Lazarus’ assertions are incorrect on two very fundamental levels.
First, Lazarus is part of a very vocal minority who continues to inject “race” into an issue that by definition has nothing to do with race and everything to do with rule of law. Thankfully, the majority of Americans still realize that all illegal immigrants of any race, creed or gender are in violation of the law. While there are illegal immigrants in our country from many different nations and many different races, the statistical facts from the United States Justice Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement clearly demonstrate that the majority of illegal immigrants are of Hispanic decent. This fact cannot be defined as racist; it is a geo-political reality.
This results in a “racial” but not a “racist” component to the issue of illegal immigration in the United States. In other words, it is very possible that any crackdown on illegal immigration might result in a disproportionate number of Hispanics being affected. But this is simply because they represent the majority of offenders. Since when should law-abiding Americans apologize for this fact?
The bottom line is that I am personally offended by suggestions that Americans like me who believe in enforcing our immigration policy are racists. Americans who support thorough and strict enforcement of immigration are no more racist than Americans who support traditional marriage are homophobic. It’s a false conclusion drawn on false representation of the facts intended to demonize those with whom one disagrees.
Lazarus is incorrect in a second substantial way that few people seem able to articulate: The bill that was passed in Arizona actually has nothing to do with immigration policy. The Arizona bill has to do with immigration law enforcement. Lazarus and others have built their argument against Arizona on the suggestion that only the federal government can set immigration policy. They are correct, and nothing Arizona has done changes federal immigration policy at all. Instead, the new Arizona law simply says that there will no longer be any sanctuary or safehaven for illegal immigrants in their state. In fact, Arizona is formally and officially saying that they will work with officials in handling the crime of illegal immigration.
The truth is that state and local police agencies work with the federal government in enforcing federal statutes all the time. This local cooperation is essential in genuine and thorough law enforcement at all levels. Arizona hasn’t changed immigration policy at all. Arizona has simply agreed to enforce the law and cooperate with the federal government. If anything, the U.S. Department of Justice should be investigating the constitutionality of large cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco or Miami, which have openly declared “sanctuary” for people here illegally. It’s preposterous that any city in the United States can simply opt out of law enforcement so brazenly. And if Americans truly believe that individual states have no business meddling with policy that is reserved for the federal level, then where is the outrage over states like California setting its own drug policy with respect to marijuana?
In conclusion, I would like to give Lazarus the benefit of the doubt in suggesting that she is merely focusing on the impoverished plight of the many people who come to our country. Unfortunately, she and so many others fail to acknowledge that the United States has one of the most generous and welcoming immigration policies in the world. But we must send a message to the world that we are also a country of law and order. We cannot continue to reward bad behavior or any unlawful conduct.
As Americans, we must first focus on the issues of crime, poverty, education and health care that face those of us who are here legally before we can embrace the suffering of people who begin their American dream by breaking immigration law. And in case anyone reading this opinion would like to dismiss me as a self-righteous, unappreciative American with no concern for human rights, let me mention two things: First, immigration to any country is not a human right. And second, I am actually a first generation immigrant myself, who came to this country from the United Kingdom, who stood in line after line, filling out paperwork and getting fingerprinted, sitting through interviews and paying a variety of fees. I waited my turn and paid my dues. No one should be above the law, and fair-minded Americans should agree.
Benjamin J. Roberts
Class of 1994