Arizona’s immigration policy

I've been a little slow to comment on the recently passed legislation on immigration in Arizona.  (Here's EJ Dionne's nice quick take on the matter).  As written, the law may be Constitutional, but I truly see no way that it can actually be enforced in the real world which does not end up being a blatant violation of civil rights (i.e., selective enforcement on the basis of ethnicity).  The law gives Arizona police the power to search anyone they have probable cause to believe is an illegal immigrant.  That sounds all well and good, but in the real world, just what is "probable cause" to believe someone is an illegal immigrant? Hmmm, something tells me it might have something to do with a person's ethnic appearance and language.  As soon as you start checking for evidence of legal status based on these factors, you are violating civil rights and thus the Constitution.  Selectively asking for proof of citizenship only for persons who fit a certain stereotype is a clear violation of the 14th Amendment (my favorite) proposition of "equal protection under the law."  

On a sort-of-related note, actions like this might help the GOP short-term, but long-term makes it ever more likely they will have permanent minority party status.  Building a party off the anger of angry white men is just not a good long term strategy as they are an ever-shrinking (thank goodness, does that make me a self-loathing white male) portion of the electorate. 



About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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