29 April 2010

Considering the Unintended (?) Consequences of the Arizona Immigration Law

This post is NOT about Immigration policy. I have my own thoughts on that issue, which you are free to endure if you ever ask me about it at a dinner party or reception. You may then wish you hadn't.

The purpose of this post, however, is to ask readers to engage in a momentary thought exercise. Why? Because I suspect that many of you might have read about the recent law enacted in Arizona that allows state officials to start doing something the federal government has failed to do for years-- namely, to enforce the laws disallowing people to enter the U.S. without permission. And I also suspect that as a matter of policy many of you think this is a good idea.

Taking that into account, it is important for citizens of an allegedly free country to consider the consequences of this law for U.S. citizens themselves. It is no secret that I think that faithful Catholics may one day face the prospect of the regime seeking to find and punish us. And so I present this article by William Norman Grigg for you to use to exercise your powers of comparison and contrast:

From the
full article at LewRockwell.com:

The Borders Are Closing In

by William Norman Grigg

Slavery consists of being "subject to the incessant, uncertain, arbitrary will of another man."

~ John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government

When an officer tells you to come inside and sit down, you come inside and sit down.... When an officer tells you to do something, you do it .... There is no "why" here.

~ U.S. Border Guard to a befuddled Canadian citizen arbitrarily detained while trying to visit a shopping mall in Niagara Falls, New York.

Returning to his home in Toronto following a brief visit to the States last December, author Peter Watts had the misfortune of being "randomly selected" for a search by members of the Regime's Border Guards Directorate stationed at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, Michigan.

The science fiction novelist's bad luck was exacerbated by a momentary miscommunication: He saw a "flicker of motion" outside his car that he assumed was a wave, rather than a demand to pull over. His passenger understood what was happening, and urged Watts to pull over – which he did.

"When I go like this, I'm not waving hello," sneered the border guard, assuming the snarky tone of unmerited superiority that armed functionaries use when addressing Mundanes.

"I guess we're not in Canada, because sometimes that means 'hello,'" Watts replied, thereby committing a potentially fatal offense called "contempt of cop."

He compounded that supposed sin by getting out of the car and asking what the guards were doing as they pawed through the luggage in his trunk and the bags in his back seat.

As a citizen of the freest country (by default) in North America, Watts made the critical error of assuming that he had the right to ask why his privacy was being invaded, and that his question would be answered. His question was answered with repeated demands that he get back in his car.

After Watts hesitated, one of the guards seized his arm. This provoked a predictable "flinch response" from Watts, who pulled his arm away.

For reasons that make perfect sense to those attuned with Kafka's sense of reality, American law enforcement officers often construe the act of pulling away from their unwanted physical contact as a form of "assault" – and thus as a pretext for the summary administration of "street justice."

First two, and then eventually three, of the stalwart guardians of our sacred northern frontier took turns pummeling the slender, mild-mannered 52-year-old man. Watts was punched, kicked, pepper-sprayed, handcuffed, then thrown wet and partially disrobed into an unheated cell. He was then interrogated, held overnight, and charged with "assaulting a federal officer" after being denied access to legal counsel (and pestered repeatedly to repudiate his Miranda rights).

After Watts' computer, flash drives, and loose-leaf notebook were confiscated, he was unceremoniously dumped – in shirtsleeves, without so much as a windbreaker – on the Canadian side of the border.

Ironically, in his novel Maelstrom, Watts – a Hugo nominee who specializes in dystopian fiction – appears to have anticipated his experience. Describing the abuse suffered by a character at the hands of customs officials, Watts observes: "Technically, of course, it was not an assault. Both aggressors wore uniforms and badges conferring the legal right to beat whomever they chose."

A jury of dutiful collectivist drones found Watts guilty of the supposed crime of "non-compliance with a border guard"; his "crime," reduced to its essence, was to ask, "why?"

Although Watts could have been forced to spend years as part the world's largest prison population, the presiding judge was content to pilfer $1,628 from the victim of the assault at the border – after treating him to a patronizing lecture about the need to be "nice" to the feral armed adolescents who constitute the State's punitive caste.


Is it easier to build a police state from the inside out, or from the outside in? We may never know, since the architects of the Homeland Security State are doing both simultaneously.

Whenever a society descends into totalitarianism, the ruling clique will eventually close the borders – not just to prevent contamination by politically troublesome foreign influences, but also to prevent the egress of refugees and (most importantly) the flight of capital to more congenial economic environments.

In our case, the invasive and arbitrary powers exercised in the name of border security are becoming embedded in routine law enforcement within the interior. Although the geography of the contiguous 48 states remains unchanged, there is a very real sense in which the borders are closing in on us.

The Border Patrol – the kind folks who treated Mr. Watts to a dose of uniquely Amerikan hospitality – already carries out warrantless, suspicionless checkpoints as far as 100 miles inside the national boundary. The Department of Homeland Security insists that the Fourth Amendment proscription of "unreasonable searches and seizures" doesn't apply to "border enforcement" searches. This would mean that the two-thirds of the U.S. population living within 100 miles of an international border are residents of a "Constitution-Free Zone."

Tragically, the expansion of the immigration control "Constitution-Free Zone" is being propelled by some of the most outspoken critics of "big government."

Last week, many (by no means all) adherents of the Tea Party movement briefly suspended their campaign against invasive government to promote and applaud the enactment of a measure turning Arizona into an authentic police state – that is, one in which police can demand identity papers from practically anyone and arrest those who don't comply.

Under SB 1070, signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer on April 24, any "lawful contact" between a law enforcement officer and a citizen can end with the latter being arrested and detained if he cannot satisfy a "reasonable suspicion" that he is in the country without official permission.

An incident that occurred two days before that law was signed by Brewer demonstrates that a valid driver's license may not be sufficient to allay that suspicion, and that it's entirely possible for a native-born U.S. citizen who fully cooperates with the police to end up being handcuffed, arrested, detained and humiliated.

On April 22, an Arizona resident who identifies himself as Abdon (he hasn't chosen to disclose his surname) pulled his truck into a weigh station. As his vehicle was being inspected, Abdon was asked by an official to display proof of legal residency. He promptly handed over a valid Arizona commercial driving license; he also supplied his Social Security number and additional personal details.

For some reason this was considered insufficient, and Abdon ended up being cuffed and hauled away to an ICE detention facility while his wife – who was dragged out of work – was dispatched to their home to retrieve Abdon's birth certificate and other documents.

The unfortunate truck driver's birth certificate listed his birthplace as Fresno, California. This means that he – unlike one, or possibly both, major party candidates in the last presidential election – has an unassailable claim to being a "native-born United States citizen." He had complied with every demand made of him at the weigh station, and did nothing to suggest that he harbored criminal intent of any kind.

The only source of the "reasonable suspicion" that led to Abdon's arrest was his visible ethnicity. This is the standard under which American citizens (particularly, but not exclusively, of Latino ancestry) can now be harassed, arrested, and detained in the State of Arizona.

The more frequently this kind of thing happens, the likelier it becomes that innocent people will be seriously hurt – as if being accosted, questioned, and detained by armed strangers for reasons beyond one's control weren't sufficient injury.

SB 1070 has been the equivalent of a public works project for the "tolerance" industry, which is busy planning boycotts and other expressions of punitive sanctimony against Arizona. This had the predictable, albeit unfortunate, effect of leading at least some honorable people of goodwill to assume the best about the measure without examining its impact on individual liberty.

Every invasion of individual rights happens with the eager support of people acting in the sincere and thoroughly mistaken confidence that what they permit the state to do to others will never be done to them.

The seminal error is to insist on exceptions to the principle that government – assuming, of course, that one should be permitted to exist – must be strictly limited to protecting the life, liberty, and property of every individual.


Enactment of Arizona's "your papers, please" legislation – which, Judge Andrew Napolitano predicts, won't survive constitutional scrutiny – comes at a time when the problem of illegal immigration is in remission, both in that border state and nation-wide. It's entirely likely that with immigration beginning to taper off, the border enforcement apparatus being built today will increasingly be directed inward.



legal immigration is good said...

Illegal immigration in remission? Tell that to the people of Arizona. Papers wouldn't be necessary if the laws on the books were enforced such as border control, and businesses not hiring them.

One can hardly blame Arizona who felt they had no choice. There are many more horror stories from Arizona involving an influx of illegal immigrants who are also drug smugglers, gangs and thugs.

Anonymous said...

In regards to the news video of the truck driver held for questioning, for someone allegedly born in Fresno, California some twenty odd years ago, he sure has a thick Mexican accent. Perhaps the authorities suspected he was an illegal alien for good reason, i.e. his accent and inability to speak English consistent with the standard American way of speaking, and not solely because of his ethnicity. His accent possibly indicates that he grew up in Mexico, not the U.S. Someone born and raised in the U.S. and given an education here would speak better English and with less of an accent than this young man. I was able to pick up on his accent within a few words; surely the authorities also picked up on this. I am suspicious that the media spent more time allowing the wife to speak and only allowed the truck driver a few words. Perhaps the media knew that the more he spoke, the more he would incriminate himself and thereby torpedo the news outlet's "sensational" story? I,for one, am suspicious.
I'll grant you that the government appears to be turning into a police state in so many ways, but I don't agree with you on this particular immigration issue in Arizona.
Try living anywhere near the border for a period of time and then let's see what your opinion is of this legislation. I've lived along the border, went to school and worked with both the legal citizens (those of Mexican heritage and those who aren't) and the illegal citizens, and I've seen the damage done by the laxity of law enforcement to effectively deal with this issue. The borders are porous and an easy means for the criminal element to flood into our country, which many have done already. The Mexican government actively encourages their criminals to relocate here! They even publish instructional pamphlets on how to enter our country and get away with it. This has to be stopped. The good citizens of Arizona want immigrants from Mexico, and other foreign countries, to enter our country legally, using the fair legal means of qualifying for a visa. The same process we would expect from any foreign national entering our country. Why is this so wrong?
I think Arizona's new law is a good start and that it's high time something was done about the issue.

thetimman said...

With respect, I think both anonymous commenters are focusing on the underlying policy regarding immigration, and not on the constitutionality of the methods employed.

When you watch that video, in your mind substitute "Catholic" for "Hispanic" and you get the idea. Why is it OK to arrest a US citizen without probable cause? Because he looks Mexican? Because his grammar and diction seem Mexican? Did he commit a crime that prompted the stop in the first place, or did he just "look" foreign?

If one has a disagreement with the policy that being born in the United States automatically confers citizenship, there are ways to address that.

Just wait until you are pulled over on suspicion of supporting terrorism, taken to DHS, intimidated, detained, and in fear for your liberty for having a Catholic radio or pro-life bumper sticker. You might reconsider your position.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the hysteria after 9/11 where anyone who even slightly looked middle eastern was suspect. I understand the hyper-vigilance of those who feel the need to protect themselves, but when that protection violates the rights of those who have nothing to do with terrorism or illegal border crossing we have crossed a very delicate line. I don't think we can legislate everything away. There certainly should be better patrolling of the borders, but once inside this country, I believe unless there is sufficient evidence that someone is here illegally, the ability to stop and search, based solely on what they look like or speak like (my own Italian grandmother who came here at 12 never lost her thick Italian accent even after becoming an American citizen) is plain racism and should not be tolerated by a free society. Black Americans have been dealing with this for decades. Racial profiling is nothing new, the race has just changed. Ask a black man you know if they've ever been pulled over for no specific reason. Every black man I know has been pulled over at least once, and many numerous times. They've learned to just be polite and answer the "mans" questions, but it sure gets irksome after awhile. As a white woman, I don't know what it's like, but I can imagine!
anonymous #2

Alison said...

I am sure that you have a point. The Klu Klux Klan Act was used against pro-lifers. RICO was also used against pro-lifers. Currently, I am convinced that throughout the United States, that state agencies which are supposed to protect abused children single out large families at any chance. If I had been blessed with many children, I'd be afraid if I ever had to take them to an emergency room. A social worker recently testified in one state that it could be abuse to force your children to say the rosary.
Having found myself a legal target when I used to be actively involved in the pro-life movement, I will say this is a difficult issue. I can't say that any of the laws above should never have been passed. Society without a true moral compass is at a loss. You could be a target or just unjustly accused with or without the Arizona law. It has been going on for awhile.