When it comes to Arizona’s recent illegal alien legislation, descriptive language rules the day.
Even before the governor’s ink dried on her new immigration law, SB1070, print media proclaimed the statute “draconian…oppressive and unconstitutional” (Eugene Robinson’s column) and “a consequence of colossal [federal] failure” (Orange County Register).
Somewhere in all the rhetoric, it seems to me that we have missed the point. Despite such labels, this new legislation is anything but original. In fact, SB1070 is based heavily on the existing federal statute which provides federal agents the authority to investigate and detain individuals who may be illegally residing in the U.S.
In my thirteen years of law enforcement I have worked hand in hand with these same federal agents on immigration checks, and nowhere did I see lines of protesters with signs, or celebrities and politicians decrying the contacts we made with potential illegal aliens.
To suggest Arizona will be the rebirth of fascist Nazi Germany simply because local cops rather than federal agents enforce immigration laws is both irrational and condescending.
In fact, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency responsible for handling immigration violations, has been deputizing large numbers of police officers and deputies through a five week training program since 1995.
This training includes the accepted protocol for approaching and contacting a suspected illegal alien. It is entirely consistent with accepted professional practices and, more importantly, legal precedents and Constitutional protections.
None of the contacts I observed was based on skin color, including one in which a white subject from Eastern Europe was detained for deportation. Instead, agents and their local counterparts are trained to spot subtle clues that indicate a foreign born subject. Federal law then requires that an alien present the required documentation describing their legal status. Not one complaint regarding the officers’ conduct or profiling was made.
In short it’s not what’s in the new law, but how it’s carried out. With proper training, Arizona cops should perform the same task in the same fashion as their federal colleagues.
That leaves all of us, as Americans, with the real issue: whether immigration enforcement should be legislated by a state, even one as negatively impacted as Arizona.
That is a different topic requiring a whole new set of descriptive words.