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.