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Why you should oppose the new Arizona immigration law

I'm going to start this post by summarizing my feelings about immigration, legal and illegal. I have long felt that it is justifiable and even necessary to place reasonable restrictions on legal immigration (both in terms of who and in terms of how many non-citizens may enter the US and remain indefinitely), thereby implicitly creating such a thing as illegal immigration. If there must exist such a thing as illegal immigration - and I think there must and regard it as a necessary evil - then there must also exist some means to enforce immigration policy. If the policy cannot have any teeth then we should not have the policy at all. Further, I believe that there are a few (but only a few) rights and privileges that we owe to absolutely all people who reside here simply as a result of their being people and without regard to whether they reside here legally or illegally. For example, I think it is unacceptable to inquire about the legal residency status of a person who presents himself at a hospital seeking bona fide emergency medical aid. That said, I do think that, with a few restrictions, it is acceptable to deport illegal aliens (for having committed no crime other than being an illegal alien) although we owe a certain measure of due process to every person whose deportation is being contemplated. As a free and open society, however, we must carefully restrict our policy on how and when it is acceptable to inquire into someone's status with an eye toward potential enforcement.

Those things having been stated, let me set forth what I think it is acceptable to do and what I think it is not acceptable to do. I think the following are acceptable:
- Patrolling and otherwise conducting surveillance along our borders and establishing border checkpoints, although I am sensitive to "mission creep" in this surveillance. Border patrols should be restricted to matters of direct concern to immigration control only.
- Constructing physical barriers along borders (although I question cost-effectiveness of doing so)
- Denying entry to individuals on time-limited visas who we have bona fide reason to suspect will overstay (including requiring proof of return itinerary)
- Collecting relatively extensive information from people who enter the country on time-limited visas for the purpose of better enforcing the time limit. Most of this information should be required to be destroyed when it is known that the person has left.
- Requiring carriers that provide trans-border transportation to report to the government when someone on a time-limited visa does not appear for his scheduled return trip
- Using ordinary investigative techniques to attempt to find individuals who are known to have overstayed. This should not be viewed as allowing "fishing expeditions" however.
- Deporting illegal immigrants who have been properly indicted (not merely arrested) for committing a felony, without requiring that they first be afforded a trial for the crime.
- Inquiring into the residency status of people who present themselves to government agencies for most types of non-emergency assistance, licenses, permits, et cetera.
- Requiring prospective employers to attempt to ascertain the eligibility of candidates to work legally

And now, more importantly, I think the following are unacceptable:
- Inquiring into the residency status of people who present themselves to government agencies for bona fide emergency assistance.
- Treating people with unusual scrutiny for merely "acting in a manner characteristic of illegal immigrants" or "being in a place where illegal immigrants tend to congregate" where those things are not otherwise of themselves illegal.
- Denying reasonable due process to believed illegal immigrants whose deportation is proposed. This should include a mandatory administrative hearing in every case and a right of appeal to a judge - although I am unsure whether I believe that there should be a right to obtain a jury trial in these cases.
- Routinely inquiring into the residency status of people in general, either without cause or where the only cause is a non-specific "suspicion of illegal immigration" - as I believe that there truly can be no such valid thing as "suspicion of illegal immigration" as such.

I oppose the new "immigration law" in Arizona because it violates a number of these principles. By requiring the police to attempt to routinely identify illegal immigrants, it creates an environment that encourages abuse. Further, I believe that it is impossible to construct a set of procedural safeguards sufficient to prevent abusive and discriminatory implementation of this law. There is, I feel, no such thing as a set of rules for determining "suspicion of being an illegal immigrant" that is enforceable over the general population (as opposed to specific known individuals) that is both reasonable and non-discriminatory.

To those among you who think this new law may be a reasonable one or who are on the fence about it, I say this: Creating a carte blanche for authorities to demand, in essence, "Papers, please!" from people at large (and, indeed, it is my understanding that this law would create an obligation for all non-citizens to carry evidence of legal residency at all times but would not require citizens to carry proof of citizenship - and that itself is unreasonably discriminatory) is damaging to a free and open society and harmful to citizens, non-citizens, legal residents, and illegal residents alike. Yes, being an illegal immigrant is, by definition, an illegal act and we do, as a society, ordinarily rely on our police to determine whether reasonable suspicion exists of the commission of a crime. The problem in this case is that we are asking police to attempt to scrutinize the population at large for something that cannot reasonably be suspected of the population at large without an unreasonable infringement on the inherent right that I believe exists for the public at large to go about its business unmolested. Just because we know that a bank has been robbed in Boston does not make it acceptable for the police to interrogate everybody in Boston who "appears to be in need of money." I see this situation as analogous.

Thank you for your consideration. I invite your comments.

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