Many Editorials Now Urge Sympathy for Arizona

The state was driven to draconian measures by federal inaction, defenders argue

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Arizona's harsh new law combating illegal immigration sparked an immediate backlash. Critics denounced what they saw as totalitarian, racist undertones in a law encouraging police officers to challenge anyone they suspect to be an illegal immigrant, and arrest those who cannot produce documentation. But in the past day or so, opinion has shifted somewhat. Editorials and op-eds across the country are expressing something absent from the initial reaction: sympathy for the besieged border state. Many of them argue that while the law is extreme, it is understandable given the federal government's lack of action on immigration.
  • Critics: Back Off!  Arizona has had a huge problem with illegal immigration, argues conservative commentator Rich Lowry, who comes out swinging at those calling the law racist and totalitarian.
Arizonians needn't, and shouldn't, tolerate this. Critics accuse the state of unconstitutionally devising its own immigration policy. If it had unilaterally declared its border open to the poor, violence-plagued country to its south, this charge might have had force. Instead, Arizona seeks only to enforce the nominal immigration policy of the United States. Perhaps the federal government should try it sometime.
  • 'Arizona Has Done the Country a Favor,' says the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle. "Arizona's polarizing action may give the country's leaders a chance to collect themselves and find a rational and balanced approach." The editors have no sympathy for the state's extreme reaction, but hope it will ultimately help the situation at the national level.
  • Arizona Paid Price for Federal Inaction  "The loud voices denouncing 'Arizona' should understand that the results of the nation's failed immigration policies have come down on this state," argues a Wall Street Journal editorial. "Arizona became the major, often violent, entry corridor for illegal immigrants." Arizona's local law enforcement officers don't actually want the new law: they "don't want responsibility for enforcing national immigration laws because they say it makes them less effective at their day jobs." The editors advocate combating immigration by "expand[ing] legal channels, including guest worker programs. This would reduce illegal immigration and free up security resources to threats from drug gangs and the like."
  • Arizona Law Wrong, Understandable "President Obama is right that Arizona's tough immigration law is 'misguided,'" writes Froma Harrop in Real Clear Politics. "And Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is right that her state has been 'more than patient waiting for Washington to act.' The two are not unrelated." Harrop's conclusion: "No, Arizona is not going about this the right way. But its radical law may spur overdue action."
  • 'Congress Isn't Directly to Blame'--That Said: Get Moving  The law "opens a Pandora's box of ugly possibilities," write the editors of the Boston Globe. Yet "these sweeping measures would be a harder sell if Congress were dealing forthrightly with the realities of illegal immigration."
  • A Theory  Hot Air's Allahpundit suspects "Arizona's law was intended, more or less, as a bargaining chip that national Republicans can use to demand stricter border enforcement."
  • 'Real Reform Needed'  Boston Herald editorial staff react: "Arizona's unfortunate foray into immigration 'reform' is as distressing as it is understandable in light of the federal government's utter inability to implement effective border controls."
  • Surprise Thank-You Note from the L.A. Times  The Los Angeles paper leans liberal, but the editors have mixed feelings about this new conservative-backed law:

Thank you, Arizona.

Despite our strong condemnation of a new law that will likely promote racial profiling of Latinos in your state, we must acknowledge that you have accomplished what many others--including senators, committed activists and a willing president--have failed to achieve. You put immigration back on the national agenda.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.