This past weekend, the governor of Arizona signed Senate Bill 1070 into Arizona state law. This law purports to do what the United States federal government has failed to do--stem the tide of illegal incursions across the border with Mexico.
This invasion of illegal border crossers is no longer composed of campesinos looking for work, but now includes larger and larger numbers of violent gang members (many from Central and South America), drug runners, and other criminals. In the past few years, border violence has increased, and ranchers of all backgrounds on the border have suffered property damage, violent crime and murder. This mayhem has spilled over from the border areas to the cities and towns of the southwestern United States. Last year, for example, after committing a number of other crimes, members of a violent South American gang shot up a Denny's Diner during a robbery on Albuquerque's West Side, killing and maiming innocent Americans for no apparent reason. Gruesome murders of drug runners and drug cartel lackeys have occured here in the Albuquerque area, and in Arizona drug-related kidnappings have made Phoenix one of the kidnapping capitols of the world.
According to the Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 4, it is the job of the federal government to provide for a legal process for immigration and naturalization for those wishing to enter the United States. The States, in return for their entry into the Union, expect to enjoy the protection of their borders with other nation-states. And it is on the border that the United States has the authority to provide that protection.
But the federal government, over at least 20 years and spanning four presidencies, has refused to control the border with Mexico, thus refusing to protect the life, liberty and property of citizens of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. This is not a racial issue at all, since most of those border citizens are Mexican-American, Hispanic, Spanish, or in California, Latino. (The differences between these categories appears to be regional: in New Mexico, most of the locals were made citizens of the US via the treaty of Guadalupe-Hildago after the Mexican War, and they call themselves "Spanish.").
Arizona, in particular, has experienced what can only be called an invasion, (as has the People's Republic of California), and the federal government has not only refused to control the border--which IS its Constitutional duty--but it has also imposed unconstitutional controls on the border states--forcing them to provide education, free health care, and welfare to people who are here illegally. This has placed an enormous burden on the infrastructure of these states-- and schools, hospitals, and law enforcement have been severely challenged.
As I said a year or more ago in my first On the Border blog entry, these states--except for California, have actually called out the National Guard to try to do what the Feds will not; to control the border, in order to protect the life, liberty and property of citizens and legal immigrants living within US territory.
The new law signed by Governor Jan Brewer seems to be an act of desperation more than anything else. It is not a good law--it will further burden Arizona law enforcement, and will very likely be another instrument for the harrassment (intended or not) of American citizens who have a Spanish surname or accent, or who 'look Mexican.' No matter how desperate the situation, one's name, accent or genetic heritage is NOT probable cause. US Citizens have the right to travel within the borders of our own country without answering questions and without producing papers. The right to security in one's person, effects and papers is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, and the power of the government to question, search and seize one's person or one's property is likewise severely limited by the 4th and 5th Amendments.
Further, it is likely that SCOTUS will eventually rule the law unconstitutional, and it is very likely that the governor and the state legislators of Arizona know it. In the meantime, the federal government is likely to refuse to cooperate with Arizona law enforcement, creating a greater burden on Arizona cops, and further animosity between Arizona's citizens and their own federal government. Thus this is a situation in which federal neglect of its duties and its refusal to resolve the issue of the illegal crossings of our southern border has resulted in a stand-off with a state, and that this stand-off is likely to spread. Bleeding Arizona is an omen of the shape of things to come.
In the history of the United States, we've seen such stand-offs before. I am thinking of 'Bleeding Kansas', which was a full-out border war between pro-slavery groups from southern Kansas and Missouri, and anti-slavery groups from Kansas. The tide of emigration to Kansas increased substantially, as members of both sides tried to increase their numbers to influence how Kansas would enter the Union--as a slave-state or free. At one time, Kansas actually had two competing territorial governments, and southern armies marched into Kansas to confront John Brown and his guerilla army. Although the proximate causes of Bleeding Kansas are different that what we see in Arizona, and the violence much more explosive than protestors in Phoenix throwing water bottles at the Arizona Capitol Police, the ultimate cause is the same: the refusal of the federal government to deal with an inflammatory issue because it would upset a delicate balance of power in Washington.
To put it bluntly, our Pols lack the courage to take real stands on the issue and develop a principled and Constitutional policy on immigration. The US can have open borders only if the US scuttles the welfare state; but rather than discuss the fundamental issues, our Pols pander to the electorate in order to retain their seats. They are the furthest thing from statesmen that this country has seen since the Compromise Generation of the 1840's and 1850's.
And so they put sovereign states like Arizona into the impossible position of either enforcing federal law at the state level without compensation, and without a Constitutional mandate, or choosing to go bankrupt as all the people who will be forced to pay for it flee the State because of the tax burden and because of the lawless violence on the border.
That Arizona is pushing back against the federal government is not surprising. But it does not auger well for the relationship between an increasingly out-of-touch imperial federal government that has long ago overreached its Constitutionally limited power, and the States, which are sovereign entities now expect to sit down and shut up for the sake of increasingly worthless federal reserve notes. The federal government is bankrupt, and will now try to stay in business a little longer by preying on the states. The push-back is inevitable.
Arizona should scrap the unworkable law, and instead tote up the costs of the federal neglect of its border with Mexico, and bill the federal government for it. New Mexico and Texas* should do the same. The bills will not be paid, but they will be a moral shot across the bow of the United States Ship of State.
*Arizona and Texas may actually do it; New Mexico--manana-land USA--is very unlikely to because it still receives two dollars from the Feds for every dollar sent in. We are working on it, but it will be a difficult sell here. I will not even suggest California do it. That state is currently positioning itself to bill the other states through the federal government for its own irresponsible spending.