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Arizona's immigration bill shows republican problems

By Brandon Irvine | Columnist

This week, the Arizona legislature passed the most ridiculous piece of legislation I’ve ever had the misfortune to see or hear about. Basically, they declared that it is illegal to be an illegal immigrant in Arizona. What? Illegal immigration is already illegal, Arizona! What you’re doing is ridiculous. They’re getting deported regardless of whether you add a charge of “Illegally being here illegally” to their rap sheet.

Beyond the mind-boggling thought of making it a crime to commit a crime, there’s also the provision directing police officers to verify a suspect’s immigration status any time they have an interaction. Arizona State Rep. Russ Jones says that, “in enforcing the provisions of the bill, law enforcement has the discretion to verify immigration status ‘when practicable’ and may not verify ‘if the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation.’” Basically, if a cop has nothing better to do on a Wednesday night, he can pull over a Mexican for going 56 in a 55 zone, walk up to the window and ask for his “License, Registration, Proof of Insurance and Green Card/Work Visa.”

And if a cop is investigating a murder, he can’t ask a Mexican witness for his green card because that might result in a witness being unavailable to testify at trial. Furthermore, how does this provision protect against mistaken deportations? How many immigrants walk around with their visa constantly on their person? What’s to stop the cops from arresting them and throwing them in prison anyway while they “verify” that the visa or green card is legitimate? Not a damn thing, that’s what.

This provision is dangerous for the Republican Party in a number of ways, the most important of which is that it shows that the party is schizophrenic. Your party leaders and your sympathizers in the Tea Party are pushing the idea that you’re the grassroots party of the American people, and then you go off and pass ridiculous legislation like this, that, pardon the tired cliche, makes you look like a bunch of far-right fascists! Beyond that, how is legislation like this immigration reform?

You might as well just give Arizonans a license to go fishing for illegals and then throw them back! Rep. Jones says Arizona’s legislature “had to take charge on immigration” and write and pass this legislation because the federal government had made no progress on immigration reform. He says, and he’s probably right, that Arizona has a large problem with illegal immigration. But the legislation requiring people to prove their right to be here “when practicable” is not the answer.

Even in the event that all immigrants carry around that kind of documentation constantly, that does nothing to protect people that are native-born Americans - people who wouldn’t have green cards or visas - but suspected by police of being here illegally. These are the kinds of problems that needed to be resolved by the legislators, and gives credence to the allegations that the bill does nothing but enable racial profiling. Unfortunately, this was not done, and as a result Rep. Jones admits that the law may be reviewed by the courts.

It is essential that this sort of review be done, because this legislation is without a doubt the wrong way to deal with immigration. So is the fence, but it is important to note that neither option is “practicable” to combat illegal immigration. Republicans, you guys need to huddle up and come up with some sensible plans. Because right now, you’re all over the place and that’s not the way to win back your majorities.