What the TSA can teach the Border Patrol.
In response to this item two days ago, several eagle-eyed readers noticed that there perhaps there was the slightest teensy difference between the likely workings of Arizona's new immigration law and the realities of daily life inside Communist China.
You got me! I was actually trying to make a small joke -- and half mockingly, but half seriously too, point out that American life was about to acquire an element familiar in much of the rest of the world, the authorities' request to "show me your papers." And that the comparison holds despite the zillion obvious differences between the two situations. (China is a country hard to get into, and where it's easy to spot foreigners once they're inside. The US is a country easy to get into, and where it's hard to spot foreigners once they're inside. Etc.)
Now two comments: one from a reader who gets the item's intent and goes on to propose a brilliant practical solution; and another from a reader who wants to point out the China/Arizona differences but still argues that Arizona's law is a bad idea.
First, from reader R. Grace in Tokyo:
You compared the situation Hispanics in Arizona are soon to face, with the advent of the new
immigration law there, with daily life for foreigners in China, being
required to have proof of immigration status available on demand. Here
in Japan, as you know, we foreigners are also required to carry our
passports or registration cards, though I've been stopped and asked to
produce mine only twice in the fifteen years I've lived here.
feel certain that your sardonic point - that liberty-worshipping
Americans will soon be able to look up to China as a comparatively more
enlightened society with regard to civil liberties - will be widely
misunderstood. The responses will likely fall into two main categories:
1) People who think you're saying that it's perfectly reasonable to
expect all civilians to be prepared to prove their immigration status on
demand, especially since it's only Hispanics that really need to worry
about it - these people will either congratulate you for agreeing with
them or be furious with you for saying such a thing; and 2) People who
detect the irony in your last paragraph but patiently explain that the
Chinese authorities would be more assiduous about examining foreigners'
papers if illegal immigration were really a concern there.
course, in most places in China (and almost everywhere in Japan),
marching around demanding to see proof of immigration status would be a
very inefficient way of finding illegal immigrants, since it's so
difficult to get in and stay in the country from just about wherever
everyone else in the world is from, but the same technique would be much
more efficient in a border state like Arizona.
I hope will happen is that the Arizona law is
enforced with the same single-mindedness of the TSA's approach to
airport security. Once all Arizonans are required to present their
papers daily to every law enforcement officer that crosses their path,
will people wonder whether this cost is worth the "benefit" of a society
that is free of undocumented foreigners? Will Arizonans who feel that
they are "obviously" not illegal aliens begin, I don't know, sporting
American flag lapel pins at all times, or wearing a sign around their
neck saying "I AM AN AMERICAN"? It won't work, of course, because such
accessories will quickly become popular with bona fide illegal
immigrants as well. Maybe Arizona could pass a
new law requiring American flag lapel-pin suppliers to verify the
immigration status of anyone who buys one, or maybe we'll have to carry a
special permit that entitles us to wear lapel pins or signs around our
neck. It sounds pretty awful, but that's the price of liberty.