AZ Immigration Law, Run, Run: Meltdown with Keith Olbermann Part 41


In an era when we are all being encouraged to use our indoor voices when discussing current affairs it was heartening to see Keith “Oil on Troubled Waters” Olbermann lead by example last night. His subject, the recent Arizona immigration law:

Protests continuing at this hour at the state capitol of Phoenix, Arizona, while calls for and outlines of boycotts of the various and extremely vulnerable aspects of one of that state‘s primary exports, tourism, takes shape.

[...] Republican mayor of New York City [...] issued statement warning that people may want to think twice before going to Arizona and subjecting themselves to potential run-ins with the police.  This because of Arizona‘s new immigration measure already dubbed the “show us your papers” act.

[...] Sunday … thousands had turned out to protest the law that makes it a state crime to be an illegal immigrant, a law that will allow police to stop and question anyone they wish, merely on the suspicion that they might be in the state illegally.  Opponents saying the law will lead to rampant racial profiling and turn Arizona into a virtual police state.

In other Arizona news, a rain of frogs is covering the land, the Nile has turned to blood and four guys on horseback are thundering down South Mountain.

But, seriously now.

A normally functioning individual would have quickly followed up these assertions with some sort of …  (what’s the word I’m looking for here, oh I don’t know) … proof. Something on the order of what’s actually in the new law — as opposed to what the usual prerecorded suspects think of it — would have been helpful.

But clearly Olbermann was too busy predicting an apocalypse for Arizona — or brainstorming with Rep. Luis Gutierrez as to the best way to make that happen — to give that much notice.

OLBERMANN:  What do you think Arizona‘s softest point is here?  Is it a boycott by individual vacationers or do you try to go after something big picture like the baseball all-star game next year, or what do you do?

(Looking on the bright side at least it abbreviated Rep. Gutierrez’ pointless anecdotes and kumbaya recitations, but I digress.)

Had he taken the time, like Rich Lowry in his article today at NRO, he would have realized the “show us your papers” act is actually a long-standing federal law.

The Arizona law makes it a state crime for aliens not to have immigration documents on their person. This sounds draconian, except it’s been a federal crime for more than half a century — U.S.C. 1304(e). Has the open-borders crowd forgotten that it calls illegal aliens “undocumented” for a reason?

He might also have realized, as did Byron York in yesterday’s Washington Examiner that — unnamed opponents notwithstanding — the assertion that this law will turn Arizona into a “police state” may be just a hair over the top.

The heart of the law is this provision: “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency … where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person…”

What fewer people have noticed is the phrase “lawful contact,” which defines what must be going on before police even think about checking immigration status. “That means the officer is already engaged in some detention of an individual because he’s violated some other law,” says Kris Kobach, a University of Missouri Kansas City Law School professor who helped draft the measure. “The most likely context where this law would come into play is a traffic stop.”

As far as “reasonable suspicion” is concerned, there is a great deal of case law dealing with the idea, but in immigration matters, it means a combination of circumstances that, taken together, cause the officer to suspect lawbreaking. It’s not race — Arizona’s new law specifically says race and ethnicity cannot be the sole factors in determining a reasonable suspicion.

Finally, he might have wanted to consider the factors that brought this bill about, including soaring crime-rates that impact everyone in Arizona, including Hispanics.

Rich Lowry summarizes it thus:

The state has an estimated 460,000 illegal aliens out of a population of 6.6 million. They impose countless millions of dollars in schooling, health-care, and incarceration costs, more than $1 billion a year in one estimate. Phoenix has become a kind of lawless Ellis Island, with smugglers holding migrants in “stash houses” there until they can be moved out into the rest of the country. [...]

Arizona seeks only to enforce the nominal immigration policy of the United States. Perhaps the federal government should try it sometime.

But this would require research, such as could be performed (hypothetically) by a dumpy wannabe blogger more or less on his lunch hour, and maybe a pair of glasses that weren’t mirrored on the inside. Inasmuch as I am neither a professional researcher nor optician I can offer no further help at this point.

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.