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Commentary By Heather Mac Donald

Arizona Law is Hated Because It Could Be Effective

Economics, Economics, Cities Immigration

To understand the hysterical reaction to Arizona’s new immigration initiative, consider the numbers. There are 6,000 federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents tasked with restoring the rule of law in a country that already contains between 12 and 20 million immigration law-breakers.

Any intending illegal immigrant knows that if he can get across the border undetected, he faces a minute risk of being apprehended on U.S. soil. (By comparison, the New York Police Department, with a current headcount of 35,000, feels itself greatly understaffed in a compact city of eight million residents, only a portion of whom are law-breakers.)

The Arizona law, were it to be widely emulated, threatens to disrupt the calculus of illegal immigration. There are 650,000 state and local police officers in the U.S. If a significant portion of those officers received the mandate of the Arizona law—to inquire where practicable into the immigration status of an individual they have legitimately stopped, if they have a valid reason to believe he is in the country illegally—the balance between law enforcement and law-breaking would be changed enough to likely deter illegal border crossings and to persuade many illegal immigrants already in the U.S. to return to their home countries rather than face arrest and deportation.

The opponents of Arizona’s law -- SB 1070 -- detest it not because it will lead to racial profiling (it will not), nor because it is unconstitutional (it is not), but because it just might work. Texas is reportedly already considering a similar law. The illegal immigrant lobby knows that it has to stop SB 1070 if it wants to maintain its monopoly over border matters, a monopoly that has led to the chaos that is now engulfing Arizona.

The people screaming the loudest against Arizona’s law do not believe in immigration enforcement, period. No matter where an illegal immigrant is arrested—whether on the street, at home, or at a work site—the illegal immigrant lobby will declare that place to be an illegitimate locus for arrest.

So opposed are illegal immigrant advocates to immigration enforcement that they want to dismantle programs targeting the most dangerous illegal immigrants for deportation.

The New York Times recently called for the abolition of the so-called 287(g) and Secure Communities initiatives, a call echoed by illegal immigrant advocates in Arizona and elsewhere. Those programs now focus almost exclusively on screening jail and prison inmates to identify illegal immigrants with particularly serious criminal histories for deportation.

A typical recent catch was a Mexican gang member arrested for aggravated assault in Mesa, Arizona, who had already served seven years in state prison for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Remarkably, the New York Times charges that the 287(g) and Secure Communities initiatives “undermine” public safety, not enhance it, because they use local sheriff’s deputies to identify illegal immigrant inmates. Those deputies, the Times warns, are likely racial profilers.

The racial profiling charge is as specious leveled against jail deputies as it is against police officers. The overwhelming majority of the nation’s law enforcement personnel base their actions on suspicious behavior, not on race. Opponents of SB 1070 and the 287(g) program have never explained why cops are more likely to abuse their authority than federal ICE agents, a distinction they need to maintain in order to justify their desired cordon sanitaire between local police resources and federal immigration enforcement.

Such explanations will never be forthcoming. Arizona’s effort to enlist its police officers and sheriff’s deputies in the fight against illegal immigration is a legitimate use of police power, intended to restore public order and the rule of law. It would also be an effective use of police power, which is why it is so feared.

This piece originally appeared in Washington Examiner

This piece originally appeared in Washington Examiner