This weekend the Governor of Arizona signed a law that gives the police there sweeping new powers to profile Hispanic peopleand detain them based only on the suspicion that they could be illegal immigrants. The law makes failure to carry proof of citizenship a crime. Those who don't produce such documentation can be arrested, jailed for 6 months, or fined up to $25,00.
While there is no doubt that the failure of the federal government to enforce immigration laws, and its perpetually lingering promise of amnesty for those who manage to sneak past the border and stay a while, have made the problem of illegal immigration what it is in the border states, this law is nothing more than a desperate, iron fisted strike against the American people's ability to move freely within their own country.
The first problem with the law should be obvious-- it's a flagrant violation of civil rights, reminiscent of Nazi Germany where Jews were forced to wear the Star of David on their arms in order for the authorities to more easily identify them. In this case the star need not be worn on the arm but carried in the pocket.
With this law, a person who is a legal citizen of the United States, (even born here) could be walking on foot and be legally stopped by police, asked to produce documentation of their citizenship, and then detained when they can't. Some may say that a person could easily produce a drivers licence as proof of citizenship but two facts refute this there are people, especially in low income neighborhoods, who don't have drivers licenses and 2) in the United States you don't have to produce ID to the authorities unless there is suspicion of an actual crime. And the suspicion must be based on more than the ethnicity of the suspect and the chance that they could have been born in Mexico.
If the police stopped me on the street a white guy and threatened arrest unless I had proof of citizenship then that would be a violation of my liberty. And while the following statement shouldn't need to be said in the 21st Century, here it is: the same holds true for all United States citizens, no matter what ethinicity they are.
Those who believe that the rashness of the law will force the federal government to respond to the issue of illegal immigration more drastically may be right, and they may see a response that's even more rash. One possible outcome a blanket declaration of amnesty for those who are illegally in the country. Such an action would take the feet out from under the law, at least for the time being, leaving the unconstitutional law itself intact but defeating the AZ Governor's purpose behind signing it, at least for those illegal immigrants who are already here.
It also opens the door for a national ID card.
A possible federal government response to the Arizona law may be to have it applied to all Americans. Thus, using the guise of tackling illegal immigration once and for all, and making sure everyone is authorized to work in the United States, the justification for the national ID card would be laid before the American people as a solution which makes the law less racist because everyone would be required to carry an ID.
These are just possible consequences. Nothing in the future is certain. However, what is indisputable is the fact that a presumption of innocence until proven guilty is the right of every citizen in the United States, even if it's not always practiced. The new Arizona law is a spit in the face of those who preach liberty, an obstacle for those who advocate constitutional approaches to combating illegal immigration, and new fuel for those who hysterically argue against a common sense immigration policy by redefining the issue as one of prejudice. Such a knee-jerk reaction, while undoubtedly a response to the failed policies of the federal government, will only make the problem worse, and perhaps give Big Brother the excuse he needs to tighten his grip on the American people.