Let's cut through the clutter surrounding Arizona's new law -- it is intended to end lawsuits by victims of racial profiling. While, Arizona is the current hole in the border fence (before that it was California, before that Texas) that fact has nothing to do with the passage of the law.
The law is crafted to shield the Maricopa County Sheriff's office and its self-promoting Sheriff Joe Arpaio. This department has been sued over 2,700 times since 2004, according to the Phoenix New Times. Poor Joe gets sued almost every day. And the judge in a current racial profiling lawsuit caught Arpaio's department destroying relevant evidence. So the law seeks to redefine skin-targeting by the sheriff and his ordered-to-profile deputies as "reasonable suspicion" while still retaining the pretense that racial profiling is something else. What better solution to Arpaio's problem than legally mandating his tactics?
(Another traditional Arpaio target is Native Americans. They are five percent of Arizonans -- but thanks to casino money they can now hire those pesky, hotshot attorneys.)
Here are two facts you ought to know about the arguments being made by Arizona's governor: Like the rest of the country and like the other border states -- crime rates in Arizona have been declining for years. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Arizona's violent crime rate is the lowest since 1983. Property crime rates are the lowest since 1968. And the number of illegal immigrants in the US has declined almost fourteen percent since 2007.
Arpaio's unseemly relationship with the Mexican complexion is hardly new. When I lived in Tucson and Phoenix in the early 80s he was already well known for abuses. But two things have changed. First, Mexican Americans have come out of the shadows, and are now a thirty percent of Arizona citizens. They won't be abused by the likes of Arpaio and simply take it. And second, the sinking Arizona economy made kicking out the Mexicans popular, once again. During every boom, border state employers actively recruit cheap labor in Mexico. During every downturn, they send them packing once again.
So if all the justifications for the law are simply made up, what's left? Protecting Joe Arpaio from the laws that are meant to protect the rest of us from him. That's what.