A Philosopher's Blog

Arizona’s Immigration Law

Posted in Ethics, Politics, Race by Michael LaBossiere on April 23, 2010
Great Seal of the State of Arizona
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Now that the health care issue has faded a bit, folks need a new focus for their righteous outrage. The matter of immigration seems set to take center stage once more.

Arizona currently is considering some of the toughest immigration laws in the country. The gist of the law is that immigrants “must carry their alien registration documents at all times and requires police to question people if there’s reason to suspect they’re in the United States illegally.” The bill also has provisions for people who hire illegal immigrants or provide them with transportation.

On one hand, the laws can be seen as quite reasonable. After all, being in the country illegally is (by definition) against the law. The police are tasked with enforcing laws and hence it makes sense that they should be directed to ensure that people are not breaking the law.

The aspect of the law that deal with people hiring illegal immigrants or transport them also seem sensible. After all, illegal immigrants are not here legally and hence businesses should not be hiring them to work. This, one might argue, would be on par with hiring known criminals and failing to report them to the police. The same would apply to people who transport illegal immigrants. If I knowingly give a criminal a ride and fail to report it, then I would seem to be aiding the person in his/her crime.

On the other hand, there are some serious concerns about the law.

One minor one is that the idea that people need to carry around identity papers at all times has sort of a totalitarian feel to it.

A much more serious concern is the requirement to question people who are suspected of being here illegally. The obvious concern is determining what would count as legitimate grounds for suspicion and what would not. Obviously enough, if an officer sees someone running across the border, then that would be reasonable grounds to ask questions. There are also other cases that would justify such questions as well, such as when the police raid an employer known for hiring illegals. However, there is a serious concern that the law will lead to American Hispanics being harassed and profiled. After all, some folks regard being Hispanic or not speaking English as grounds for being suspicious of a person being an illegal immigrant. I suspect that if I went to Arizona, I would never be asked to provide proof that I am here legally. However, I suspect that the same cannot be said for Americans with darker skin.

A practical concern is that, ironically enough, illegal immigrants apparently make significant contributions to Arizona’s economy. By driving out illegals and failing to handle the situation in a more reasonable manner through immigration reform Arizona might turn out to be hurting itself.

This is not to say that the state should simply do what many other states do and mainly just ignore the problem. Rather, what is needed is for the states and the federal government to seriously address the matter of illegal immigration and work out a solution that is both just and practical.

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12 Responses

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  1. A J MacDonald Jr said, on April 23, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    I recently moved to Pennsylvania after having live in Tucson, Arizona for the past two years and I can assure you that, people who are from Mexico (or Central America) who in this country legally already have to carry their papers on them. This is common knowledge. As do those of us who are white, American citizens–every time one is questioned by the police (either while sitting, standing, walking, or driving) we are asked to provide our identification papers.

    I can also assure you that the Tucson police do not have the time to stop people on the streets in Tucson simply because they are Hispanic. This, in itself, would be an all day job, and they are far too busy for anything like that.

    As I understand the intent of the law, if the police see, as I’ve seen, a group of Hispanic people, with backpacks, walking along on a rural state highway, coming from the direction of border, which is only 60 miles south of Tucson, walking toward the city of Tucson, this would be reasonable cause to ask them for their papers.

    This, I think, is reasonable. There are plenty of Border Patrol officers on these roads as well, but I’m assuming the police would like to be able to question those whom the BP has yet to catch up with, if they suspect they are in the country illegally.

  2. T. J. Babson said, on April 23, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    I can understand that the state government feels overwhelmed, but this is not a good law.

    • T. J. Babson said, on April 30, 2010 at 7:33 pm

      The law has been clarified. It is much improved:

      So now, in response to those critics, lawmakers have removed “lawful contact” from the bill and replaced it with “lawful stop, detention or arrest.” In an explanatory note, lawmakers added that the change “stipulates that a lawful stop, detention or arrest must be in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state.”


      • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 1, 2010 at 12:50 pm

        I’m fine with the police running a status check on individuals that are detained or arrested. After all, it is reasonable to check to be sure that a person who is being detained for one crime (or alleged crime) has not committed other crimes. By definition, being here illegally is illegal and thus a crime.

        The main concern seemed to be that people would be stopped and harassed for DWH (Driving While Hispanic) or WWH (Working While Hispanic).

  3. magus71 said, on April 25, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    Phoenix Arizona has the highest kidnapping rate in the world.

  4. magus71 said, on May 1, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Many illegal aliens did not go through the naturalization process because theyt are criminals in their own country. The US would not allow them in legally.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 1, 2010 at 12:52 pm

      In that case, they should be sent back (assuming that the crimes are not really crimes-such as opposing an oppressive state).

  5. Elyse said, on May 29, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Surprising to see a ‘philosopher’ omit an analysis of the ethics involved in illegal migration (it is not immigration) and also use logical fallacies, spin, and weasel words, such as those contained in sentence one. A pro philosopher? I am skepical that that is so, and if it is, frankly horrified.

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