Immigration--legal or otherwise--is not the most important aspect of an immigration policy. The most important goal is the preservation of a unitary nation--in which the people share a common civic culture, values, and language. These are inculcated by shared childhood experiences--the family Thanksgiving; the tales of Lincoln and his log cabin, of Washington and the cherry tree. (When people say that Obama is "not one of us", they mean that he did not share our childhood, sing the ditties that every American child sings--about hauling boats down the Erie canal or Davey Crockett--and hear about Paul Bunyan.)
Nations which have tried to permit two cultures to co-exist with equal rights usually fail. (Canada with Quebec is but one example.)
Here's what the Arizona law does--and does not do.
First, it's a bluff. No one is going to enforce it. An officer making an arrest needs at least one hour--and sometimes up to three hours--to book a suspect. In the event the suspect is a possible illegal, more time may be required to get in touch with ICE. All that time the officer must remain with the arrestee. No officer has that much extra time to use detaining a gardener or a bus-boy; and every minute he's at the station house he's removed from the streets and not on patrol.
Secondly, the law puts all officers at peril of being sued for discrimination. All the sage words and advice of the commentators notwithstanding, it is a very real possibility, almost a certainty; and no officer should be forced to step into that minefield at the risk of ending his career.
What the law effectively does do is establish two nations. Because the law scares. It makes illegals fearful of law enforcement. For decadesthe policy in the Southwest has been that local law enforcement does not concern itself with a person's immigration status. Illegals understood that they were free to engage in normal interaction with police and the courts. They could take the witness stand without apprehension. The new law reverses this. Now illegals who are crime victims need be wary about calling 911. If they witness a crime--no matter that you may need their testimony to make your case--they will not show up at court. For them, police are no longer there to protect and to serve, but to deport.
Cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles (if the Arizona concept spreads), which are home to hundreds of thousands of illegals, will end up harboring enormous subcultures where the population will remain in the shadows, rather than cooperate.
And this hiding will extend to the schools. There are those who complain about the funds being spent to educate children who are here illegally. But unless those children are deported, they are going to be our future residents (legal or otherwise). They must be mainstreamed. They must come to share our language, culture, and civic values. If they do not, we are just planting the seeds of a Quebec in our midst.
To the reply that the solution is to depart them, the truth is that this is not going to happen. There are just too many of them. Joseph Stalin could accomplish the mass deportation of millions of people. The United States of American cannot. Even if as many a as third of illegals now here go home, millions more are going to remain behind. They cannot be wished away. The choice is only between molding them into that new being--the American--in the melting pot; or forcing them to remain apart.
It's time to wake up and smell the offer about immigration. Yes, we need control of our borders. We need a guest worker program so that these who wish to work here can come without having to bring their families with them. We need security in our ports and our coasts.
But we do not need to create the very thing we are trying to avoid--millions of people who are forced to remain unassimilated, separate, and hidden. That will grow into a tumor gnawing at our national unity. And unfortunately, the probable result of the Arizona law will be to accomplish just that.
author, "The Duke Lacrosse Case: A Documentary History and Analysis of the Modern Scottsboro"