The Fine Print

There are so many things that can be written (and mostly not read) about new Arizona law or about the issue of illegal immigration. As this resolution from the National Association of Evangelicals (followed up by this ad in Roll Call) shows, I can be encouraged that I am not the only conservative who will admit that something needs to be done other than shipping them across the border, Do Not Pass Go, and above all else Do Not Collect $200.

Before addressing the fine points of the Arizona legislation, let’s look at the big picture. A good friend of mine is an immigration lawyer and for those who vet  sources by ideology or theology, he is conservative both politically and theologically. In a recent email (and with permission to reprint) he said:

Regarding the ~12 million people here illegally now.  I am pretty brutally pragmatic about this.  I move right beyond the moral issues about whether we should grant amnesty to the practical conclusion that we have no choice.  We simply cannot deport all these people.  We cannot just send ICE buses into neighborhoods, round up 12 million people (the population of a pretty good-sized state) and drive them to the border.  Under the Due Process Clause, every person allegedly in the US illegally gets a hearing before an immigration judge in immigration court before they are deported.  You will need to confirm the numbers, but I think our entire immigration court system can process about 300,000 to 350,000 people a year.  At that rate, it would take about 35 or 40 years to deport the 12 million people here now, assuming no more came in.

So the Arizona legislation won’t work. It will work even less if other states take up the same legislation. The essence of the Arizona bill is nothing more than NIMBY- Not In My Back Yard. (From section 1: The legislature declares that the intent of this act is to make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona.) But if the federal court system can’t handle the numbers (that’s after all the added work for the Arizona court system) they have no choice but to release everyone that Arizona rounds up. As many of these people who are able will probably move out of Arizona to avoid having to go through that again, so Arizona’s loss will be the gain of another state. So if you are in a state other than Arizona, the Grand Canyon State wants her problems to be yours.

So how is this attrition of illegals in Arizona supposed to be accomplished? Here’s the rest of section 1: The provisions of  this act are intended to work together to discourage and deter the unlawful entry and presence of aliens and economic activity by persons unlawfully present in the United States. More specifically in section 5: IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR A PERSON WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES AND WHO IS AN UNAUTHORIZED ALIEN TO KNOWINGLY APPLY FOR WORK, SOLICIT WORK IN A PUBLIC PLACE OR PERFORM WORK AS AN EMPLOYEE OR INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR IN THIS STATE. (I’m not shouting – it’s all caps in the original.)

Simple enough. We don’t let them work. If they have no money, they’ll have to go on welfare. Oh, except that Arizona passed HB 2008 last year [codified as ARS §§1-501(E) and =502(E)]  that not only denied benefits to illegals, but makes it a crime punishable by four months in prison for an government worker who does not report to immigration authorities any illegal immigrant who requests benefits even if they are requesting them for a citizen child entitled to them, even if they discover the information in casual conversation. According to the the opinion of the Arizona Attorney General, this includes emergency health care, emergency disaster relief, and immunization.

All the better, you say. If ICE won’t do the job, Arizona will. The message: no work, no welfare or healthcare (even for citizen children of illegals), no problem. You have to leave Arizona or starve. Or get diseases from which everyone else gets immunized. A little polio or tuberculosis or rubella will teach you. Get back over the border. Duck if you hear any gunfire. But that’s where you were born and that’s what you deserve. You might not be one of the next 20,000 killed.  And if you just won’t leave this wonderful country that loves legal immigrants who are from eligible countries of origin and have paid lots of money and suffered through years of red tape, at least go to California or New Mexico or Indiana or Texas (Hoosiers and Texans will be glad that you probably won’t get that far).

I’ve only touched on a tiny part of the new Arizona law. Every section, sub-section and clause deserves to be examined closely. For example, section 3 makes it a crime in be anywhere in Arizona without proper federal immigration status, subject to (in addition to the provision of federal law) six months in an Arizona jail and a $2500 fine plus:


That’s right, unlike a citizen, an illegal does not get equal protection under the law (yeah, yeah, big constitutional problem here that those pesky liberals are gonna go and bring up) plus (and remember, this is someone not allowed to make any money) they shall be ordered to pay jail costs plus $500, unless the ICE has previously let them go in which case it is an additional $1000. And if it is second offense or subsequent offense of being in Arizona, it becomes a class 4 felony, punishable by 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000 (no, that’s not a typo), plus jail costs, plus the $1000.

And remember, 3 years means 3 years. No suspended time, no good time, nothing that a citizen can expect. And let’s be honest. This will be at the cost to the Arizona taxpayer (even in a Joe Arpaio tent city with rancid bologna sandwiches and that constant 115F sunshine), because you can demand all those fines and costs but if someone not only doesn’t have the money but is also forbidden to earn the money, there’s not going to be any money.

Don’t forget that HB2008 and SB1070 are specifically designed to catch parents of children with legal or illegal status. Some one’s gonna have to take care of them. To change the lyrics of the traditional song just a bit, “Motherless children have hard time when their mother is Arizona prison for three years.”

I’ve only touched on a tiny bit of SB1070. There’s plenty more. Given my inability to shut up about this (despite the being explicitly asked to do so in one instance), I will probably go and dredge it up. If we just want people to obey the law, it can’t hurt to examine it closely, can it?

4 Responses to “The Fine Print”

  1. Lee Says:

    I have difficulty in cutting through the sarcasm of this post. I also find it interesting that the difficulty of enforcing a law, can become a measure of the utility of a law, or it’s value in others ways. I would like to hear your thoughts, also, on the justice of amnesty, (isn’t that where this reasoning is headed?) when others have followed the rules, waited their turn, etc. Again, I submit that the AZ bill is the right thing to do, when such institutional injustice exists, that is exacerbated by poor immigratio policies.

  2. sol Says:

    Justice cannot be judge in terms of two different groups of people. Justice has to judged in terms of its compatibilty with what is morally right. As between those who have waited in the queue and those who haven’t, I could offer Matthew 20:1-6. I could also suggest that some people have been waiting in the shadows and margins of society for a very long time because the law would not even allow them in the queue. It’s apples and oranges, not competing interests.

    I have difficulty in cutting through what I think is such an manifestly unjust law that it deserves scorn. The deeper I dig into it, the worse it gets.

    This is above and beyond the fact, as I have pointed out, that Arizona is simply making a rod for their own collective back, costing them an enormous amount of money when they already have a deficit, for something that patently will not acheive the desired goal unless that goal is to push more immigrants to other states instead.

    In what why is the bill the right thing to do. What positive thing does it accomplish?

  3. Lee Says:

    I think histroy shows that positive change is accomplished incrementally, and so AZ’s law is a step, not necessarily and end. And I am not sure we agree on the nature of justice, as I read the OT, it seems that social justice, in the good sense of the word, does treat people differently.

    That is an interestig use of the Mt passage. For the Lord of the land to dispense as He sees fit is just, but for the stewards of American “favors”, I do not see thier authority, or justice in robbing from one man to benefit another.

    And is the call to this kind of justice, a call upon the church, and not the state?

  4. sol Says:

    The Arizona legislation does not indicate, either in its stated purpose or its content that it is designed to be part of an incremental plan. The only way I can see this is as the next stage after HB2008. What, pray tell, is Arizona’s next step?

    You know I am always open to theological discussion. I would like to hear more of your reading of the OT with examples.

    I also do not see justice in robbing one man to benefit another. If immigration were a Marxist concept of a fixed pie of which there are only so many slices which must necessarily be redistributed to achieve justice, then your argument would hold water. However, as immigration numbers are at the legislative caprice of Congress or within the executive powers of federal agencies, the man waiting in line need not be robbed of his opportunity because another is given it.

    But if we look at both sides of your coin, neither should the man from the favoured country of origin, who will contribute to the correct socially engineered culturally diverse mix be chosen over the man just desperate to protect and provide for his family even though he has the wrong color skin and speaks the wrong dialect of Spanish. Which man is robbing which in your fixed-pie paradigm?

    I don’t think there are different kinds of justice.

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