By Reynold N Mason
Atlanta, May 2,2010 - Last week Arizona enacted, perhaps, the toughest immigration law in the country. Any suspected undocumented person unable to prove legal status with “papers’’ faces arrest and a fine of $ 2500.00. Critics have assailed the measure from every front. The state now can only watch as its global reputation is tarnished by these attacks, many of them unfounded. Critics have decried Arizona’s efforts as meddling in Federal businesses. They have savaged the state for looking on undocumented immigrants as second class by mandating that they carry proof of legal status, they say the law legalizes racial profiling. But Arizona’s hands were forced because the Federal government was not minding its business.
The torrent of adverse reaction to the law was as swift and unexpected as a mid-west tornado. Sister states feeling the budgetary squeeze have enacted similar legislation with nary a column of notice in the liberal press. Oklahoma for one, in 2007, enacted a law, HB -1804, cutting off undocumented immigrants from state services and making it a crime for anyone, including citizens, to transport or assist undocumented immigrants. Where was the outcry then? Where were the now vocal critics who are painting Arizona black?
Emboldened by the flood of sister state boycotts, law suits challenging the law and calls to isolate Arizona and leech out its economic life blood, as punishment for its audacity and effrontery, Mexico has now stuck its nose into this family squabble. President Calderon, perhaps pleased that the world’s attention is now focused on Arizona , rather than on his country’s ongoing drugs war, has promised more than just talk,” we are going to act”, he promised last week. True, blood is thicker than water, and Hispanics may understandably feel that this law is a kick in the guts of their paisanos. But our family fight should be allowed to continue no further. San Francisco, Washington DC. and the other sister states and cities should knock it off. Arizona does not deserve to be made the pariah and scapegoat for Federal indifference to the plight of border states. The blame lies elsewhere. Instead of vilifying a sister state, activists, if they truly want immigration reform, should to look to the Federal government and channel their outrage, spewing like magma from a long- simmering volcano, in the direction of Washington DC.
Eric Holder, now threatening to challenge the Arizona law is a day late and a dollar short. He has come to the table with unclean hands, those same hands on which the Federal government has sat for years, while Arizona, Texas, California and other border states flailed helplessly in the face of a tsunami of illegal immigrants flooding their states and taxing scarce resources. Yes, we are a country of immigrants, and immigrants have been the engine of American progress. Our credo is immortalized by these words at the base of our most treasured monuments, the statute of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
But the politics and demographics of immigration have evolved since the Irish, Germans and Italians came through Ellis Island. The new comers are our brown-skinned neighbors from the south, and they have come with the same object in mind. Now, however, Americans realize that the cost of the country’s present level of immigration is enormous and increasing. The Center for Immigration Studies put the cost of illegal immigration at $29 billion in 1995. States are grappling with the lack of a Federal solution.
States carry the burden
In 2007, there were 12 million undocumented immigrants in the US. An increase of 39 per cent over 2000. In 2002 SenateResolution 95 put the cost of managing this issue at $$13 billion. Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, (EMTLA) states are required to treat undocumented immigrants without regard to their status or their ability to pay. The cost in 1997 was $3.2 billion and is surely more today. Add to that, $28.6 billion to educate the children of undocumented immigrants from K-12, and the desperation of Arizona and other border states is understandable. Many have accused Arizona of racial profiling, of singling out Hispanics for special treatment. They are wrong.
Arizona law is not motivated by race
In signing the law governor Jan Brewer said this; “There is no higher priority than protecting the citizens of Arizona. We cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of drug cartels. We cannot stand idly by as drop houses. Kidnappings and drug-related violence compromise our safety and quality of life” Any honest appraisal of the situation in Arizona, would lead to the conclusion that this is the crux of the matter. It is an effort by the state to cope with the effects of a problem that everyone admits is no longer tolerable. What is Arizona to do when Mexican drug war that has, so far, cost over 21,000 lives, spills into Phoenix and Tucson and causes collateral damage to social infrastructure? One and a half tons of marijuana is confiscated by an authorities every day in Arizona on route to cities in the north. Phoenix has seen an increase in drug-related murders and kidnappings and its hospitals are flooded by those victimized by the violence. “There have been numerous officers and deputies killed by illegals in Arizona” says Paul Bateau, Pinal County Sheriff, “violence in Arizona has reached epidemic proportions.” More than one-half of all illegals apprehended last year, were arrested in Arizona, and 17 per cent of those had criminal records.
Looking the other way
In 2004, Immigrants paid $2.4 billion into the cash coffers of the US treasury. Allowing for costs to the Federal government for enforcement and education, the treasury is left with a positive balance of $1.4 billion, according to the Immigration Policy Center. Politicians in Washington decline to enforce the law because they want to gain favor and attract votes of America’s largest minority group, Hispanics. Businesses that hire illegals pay them slave wages with no benefits, leaving the employers with huge profits.
It is against the law to hire illegals and businesses face fines under the law if they are caught in the occasional raid. But that’s just the cost of doing business. Not a dime in was collected from fines imposed on businesses that hired illegal in the entire year, 2004. Washington just looks the other way. Ilegals are an enormous benefit to our economy, paying, according to TIME $7.0 billion into social security in 2005 alone. This amounts to a “bailout “of social security by immigrants. Washington lacks the will top cut this life line.
The Way Forward
The way forward is Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Congress must adopt Comprehensive Immigration As Soon As Possible (CIRASAP) offered by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHP). President Bill Clinton, with no elections in his future, has said “I don’t think there’s any alternative, but for us to increase immigration. I just don’t see a way out of this unless that’s part of the strategy” Republican Senator, Abraham Spenser has said that …’we must balance the needs of families and employers, and extend a safe haven to those fleeing persecution, freedom and opportunity is the cornerstone of American society, and immigrants continue to embody that freedom.” That is the way forward. Washington must mind its business not neglect it and attack Arizona because it seeks to pick up the pieces from a broken Immigration policy.