The Los Angeles-Arizona tantrum-fest over Arizona’s new anti-illegal immigration law cries out for adult intervention.
Timeline of Inconsequence
First, Arizona passes the controversial, anti-illegal immigration bill SB 1070, not only putting the state on a collision course with the federal government, but also demanding de-facto ethnic profiling by police, and eroding Arizonans’ constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Even with the rightward-listing Roberts Court, SB1070 is doomed to “nice try”-ville.
Next, pouring gasoline on an issue already ablaze with emotion, the L.A. City Council decides to express its disfavor with the law by launching a divisive boycott of Arizona businesses.
Caught up in the headline feeding-frenzy, former Republican state senator and current Arizona Corporation Commissioner, Gary Pierce, then threatens to retaliate against the boycott by cutting off Arizona-generated electricity to Los Angeles.
Could a steel cage match between Mayor Villaraigosa and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio be next? Sure, Villaraigosa is younger and in better shape than Sheriff Joe, but if the fight is held in Arizona and Villaraigosa starts to get the upper hand, Arpaio can order his deputies to detain Villaraigosa before the final bell for looking suspiciously Mexican.
Sheriff Arpaio, famous for his unique contributions to penology—his Maricopa County Jail “tent city” and the pink underpants the jail’s inmates are forced to wear—now appears to be Fox News’ featured SB1070 apologist.
One look at Sheriff Joe and his “no-nonsense” snake-eyed scowl, and you know this guy means business…if the business happens to be self-promotion and publicity mongering.
To make matters even weirder, Fox is also turning to Sheriff Joe for in-depth analysis of immigration in general. Earlier in the week, Fox anchor Neil Cavuto asked Sheriff Joe to comment on the Calderon-Obama summit and press conference.
In his trademark mumble, Arpaio told Presidente Calderon to butt out of this Arizona immigration matter because it really didn’t concern him (him being the president of all those Mexicans and all). Then, as if that made sense, Arpaio ventured further into the 4th dimension with, “You know, the best kept secret in the universe is that now you can use drugs in Mexico.” Listening to Arpaio, you’d think he had gained that knowledge first-hand.
One-part Broderick Crawford (sans Crawford’s erudition), two-parts “Get off of my lawn” curmudgeon, and five-parts attention junky, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has become the poster child for the deterioration of the national debate on immigration reform.
Where are the Grown-Ups?
SB1070 doesn’t have the support of Arizonans and 60% of the country because we suddenly fancy a police state, ethnic profiling and dangerous tampering with the U.S. Constitution. Most of the law’s public support is simply the result of Americans’ frustration with Washington’s continued cowardly shirking of its responsibility regarding the growing problem of illegal immigration.
Like nature and my dogs, politics abhor a vacuum. The absence of meaningful Washington leadership on this issue opens the door wide for folks like Arpaio, Lou Dobbs and the Heritage Foundation to characterize illegal immigration in America as the end of all carbon-based lifeforms on the planet.
But, just because these folks wildly inflate the social and financial costs of illegal immigration doesn’t mean that there are no social and financial costs. Population increase, infrastructure overuse, wage suppression, exploitation, unfairness to legal immigrants and disregard for our laws are just a few of the more obvious problems associated with illegal immigration.
With over 12 million people living in this country illegally (Pew Research), and approximately 200,000 more crossing the border every year, those problems are only going to get worse–rapidly.
Intelligent, serious and humane policy makers supported by an informed public, deaf to the shrill ravings of jingoistic, scapegoating demagogues, are the only hope we have of solving this problem for good.
Unconstitutional laws, inflammatory boycotts, and little men with big egos are nothing more than distractions.