Arizona on My Mind

I have been holding off on writing about Arizona's new immigration law because I was busy with other things, and didn't feel that I had time to get up to speed.  But after finally having time to read more about it, I am, as I expected, pretty horrified.

I understand that some of the liberal/libertarian reaction to Arizona's new immigration law may have been a bit exaggerated--as I understand it (and perhaps I am wrong), the law does not authorize the police to randomly stop anyone and demand their papers; it instructs them to check the immigration status of people they're already investigating for some other infraction.  This is greatly less offensive.

But still, it's offensive.  It instructs the police to pursue their "reasonable suspicions" where the "suspicious behavior" consists of "being Hispanic", or maybe "being Hispanic, and not obviously overburdened with material goods".  Is that the kind of society you want to live in?  It's sure not the hell where I want to live (and no, George Will, that's not because I never lived around any immigrants except those who mowed my lawn; New York City, where I grew up, has quite a lot of immigrants, and they didn't just mow our vast lawns and park our cars; they went to school with us and rode the subways right next to us and everything!  It was just like that "It's a Small World" exhibit at Disney, but with better music.).

I know, I know--they're not only going to consider race/national origin.  They're going to consider those things, plus whether you may or may not have been caught in of the minor infractions that most of us commit every day

So you won't be pulled over just for acting normal--jaywalking, driving one mile an hour over the speed limit, failing to come to a full stop at a stop sign.  You'll be pulled over for those things, and being brown.  Which is somehow supposed to reassure me.

The notion that "the only people who have reason to complain about this law are those who are here illegally and those who believe that immigration laws should simply not be enforced" is, frankly, ludicrous.  I'd be pretty pissed if I had to carry my passport at all times because there was a lot of Irish illegal immigration (as there was, until recently) and my nose is suspiciously flat.  Yet I wasn't particularly enamored of giving Irish illegals a free pass on the immigration laws.

Yes, I'm more pro-immigration than the people who voted for this law . . . but this is not an argument about whether the laws should be enforced; its about how.  Racial profiling on our highways and byways should not be the how.  And the people claiming that this is somehow not about racial profiling seem, quite frankly, to be living in some alternate fairyland universe where police are going to rely on their psychic powers to peer into the minds of the people they encounter, rather than relying on external signals like . . . skin color.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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