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:

C. A PERSON WHO IS SENTENCED PURSUANT TO THIS SECTION IS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR SUSPENSION OR COMMUTATION OF SENTENCE OR RELEASE ON ANY BASIS UNTIL THE SENTENCE IMPOSED IS SERVED.
D. IN ADDITION TO ANY OTHER PENALTY PRESCRIBED BY LAW, THE COURT SHALL ORDER THE PERSON TO PAY JAIL COSTS AND AN ADDITIONAL ASSESSMENT IN THE FOLLOWING AMOUNTS:
1. AT LEAST FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR A FIRST VIOLATION.
2. TWICE THE AMOUNT SPECIFIED IN PARAGRAPH 1 OF THIS SUBSECTION IF THE PERSON WAS PREVIOUSLY SUBJECT TO AN ASSESSMENT PURSUANT TO THIS SUBSECTION.

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?