Turnabout Is Fair Play

The folks arguing against my alleged accusations of "racism" on the part of Arizonans are missing the point.  I didn't accuse Arizona of racism, and I have no idea whether they are racist or not.  What I do know is that majorities are usually markedly less concerned with the infringements of liberty that they expect will only happen to other people.  This is not racism, it's human nature. 

But that's why we shouldn't have laws that enshrine any sort of profiling.  If the immigration problems in Arizona are really so serious that they merit deep intrusions upon the liberty of citizens who happen to resemble illegal immigrants, than they are serious enough to intrude on the liberty of everyone.  Don't make the cops check the status of anyone who they "reasonably suspect" is illegal; make them check the status of everyone, no matter how blond-haired, blue-eyes, and fluent in standard American english they may be.  If you forget your license at home, the police detain you, just like they detain anyone of mexican descent, while someone fetches it.  If you can't produce a birth certificate, passport, or similar, then you wait in the pokey until they can verify your legal status.  No police discretion.  No profiling. 

If it's legitimate to do it to them, than it's equally legitimate to do it to you, if for nothing else than the benefits of social cohesion.

If, however, this law could not possibly be passed if it affected the majority, because it's far too intrusive and would result in a lot of people passing unhappy hours in jail or waiting by the side of the road while the police checked their ID with immigration . . . well, then, it's probably not something we should be doing to other people, either.  There are exceptions.  But I don't think the many problems caused by immigration rise to that level of emergency.

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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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