Apr 27, 2012
By DAVID FREEDMAN
The United States Supreme Court heard arguments this week in the Obama Administration’s attempt to overturn Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, which gives law enforcement wide powers to enforce sanctions against illegal immigrants. This law has been copied by many states and has created havoc in the agricultural sectors in most of these states as illegals, who do most of the picking of agricultural products have avoided coming into those states to work.
The crux of the Obama Administration’s arguments is that immigration is a Federal prerogative and therefore the enforcement of immigration policy lies in the Federal government’s hands. It would appear from the tone of the questions posed by the members of the Supreme Court that they are not so sure that the prerogative in fact rests with the Federal government only. Only time will tell what the outcome will be, but for the moment, let us look at the problem of illegal immigration from another perspective.
Arizona and the other states that have promulgated similar statutes argue that they bear the brunt of the costs related to housing, feeding, educating and providing healthcare to this population of people and receive little in return for the enormous cost contained in providing these services. They feel that the state should not be burdened when the Federal Government should be doing a better job in controlling the flow of illegals into the country. Let us dissect that for a moment.
It is absolutely true that the states bear the heavy burden of the costs related to providing services to illegals. It is also true that the Federal Government should do more to stop the flow of immigrants unfettered into this country. But it is not true that these states receive little in return. In Georgia, farmers have seen their entire planting seasons destroyed by the inability to hire workers to pick the produce. Fields of fruit and vegetables have been left to rot and wither for lack of workers. Arizona has seen the same and it has become readily apparent in those states that the law, which was passed with the best of intentions, is a failure economically.
Furthermore, provisions of these laws, which often require non-citizens to carry proper identification papers with them wherever they go have already led to embarrassing situations where foreign executives, legally allowed to work in this country have been arrested because they forgot to carry their papers with them when they went out on routine errands. This has a certain feel reminiscent of more dictatorial countries that require people to always carry documents with them and subject people to random checks.
So what is the answer? I believe that a country borne of immigrants cannot forget their history. I also believe that we are not and should never become a police state. After 9-11, many of our laws have tended us towards a more police state like existence and these new state immigration laws only add to this dynamic. Nonetheless, the Federal Government has, as a policy, under administrations both Democrat and Republican, buried its head in the sand and given essentially lip service to the idea of getting some real control over the situation.
The reality is that this country should be willing to offer temporary work visas to agricultural workers under an expedited process that allows them to travel into this country to work and allows control of their numbers. This will allow farmers to get the help they need, protect the workers from horrendous conditions and keep the economies in these states viable.
Instead, we are building a fence through the Southwest, as if a fence ever stopped anyone anyway. We must realize that the Latino populations, which are the most affected by these laws, are coming here to overcome horrible economic conditions in their home countries and are providing work that no one else is willing to do. Now like it or not, we need the workers and the Federal Government had better get cracking at figuring this out for once and for all.
As for the question before the Supreme Court as to whose court this ball should be played on, I hope they uphold the law, because, the economic realities, like Prohibition, will eventually lead to most of these laws going away anyway.
Filed Under: David Freedman
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