Saturday, April 24, 2010

Harsh Law?

Is it immoral to enforce our immigration laws? Sojourners' Jim Wallis thinks so. In the sort of essay that gives liberalism a bad name Wallis writes:

The harshest enforcement bill in the country against undocumented immigrants just passed the Arizona state House and Senate, and is only awaiting the signature of Governor Janet Brewer to become law [Update: She signed the bill into law on Friday].

Senate Bill 1070 would require law enforcement officials in the state of Arizona to investigate someone's immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person might be undocumented. I wonder who that would be, and if anybody who doesn't have brown skin will be investigated.

Wallis wastes no time poisoning the well with unsubtle intimations of racism. This is a classic ploy of the left. When you have no argument substitute for the deficiency with allegations of racist motivations lurking in the dark hearts of your opponents. It used to work but somebody should tell Wallis that the tactic has worn threadbare and has become risible in all but the leftmost precincts of the progressive fever swamps.

He continues:

Those without identification papers, even if they are legal, are subject to arrest; so don't forget your wallet on your way to work if you are Hispanic in Arizona. You can also be arrested if you are stopped and are simply with people who are undocumented - even if they are your family. Parents or children of "mixed-status families" (made up of legal and undocumented, as many immigrant families are out here) could be arrested if they are found together. You can be arrested if you are "transporting or harboring" undocumented people. Some might consider driving immigrant families to and from church to be Christian ministry - but it will now be illegal in Arizona.

Of course this is as it should be. It should be a crime to harbor and transport illegal aliens (Wallis prefers to call them "undocumented" which is simply a sophism that allows him to refer to them without calling attention to the fact that they are here illegally. He doesn't seem to want to admit that they are breaking the law.).

For the first time, all law enforcement officers in the state will be enlisted to hunt down undocumented people, which will clearly distract them from going after truly violent criminals, and will focus them on mostly harmless families whose work supports the economy and who contribute to their communities. And do you think undocumented parents will now go to the police if their daughter is raped or their family becomes a victim of violent crime? Maybe that's why the state association of police chiefs is against SB 1070.

How does Wallis know that enforcing this law will be a distraction? Here's a more realistic scenario: A policeman investigating a motor vehicle accident finds that the driver is an illegal alien so instead of letting him go, as they do now in many places, he simply hauls him in and turns him over to Immigration and Customs. Doesn't sound like much of a distraction nor does it sound like the police are focussing on "harmless" families.

As an aside, my brother was almost killed in an accident by an illegal alien driving without license or insurance. Nothing happened to the guy because for some reason illegals have in his state become a favored minority.

At any rate, Wallis has thus far failed to give a single reason why the law itself is bad. Everything he's said is an irrelevant appeal to pity, camouflage for the fact that Wallis favors an open border that people can cross freely.

This proposed law is not only mean-spirited - it will be ineffective and will only serve to further divide communities in Arizona, making everyone more fearful and less safe. This radical new measure, which crosses many moral and legal lines, is a clear demonstration of the fundamental mistake of separating enforcement from comprehensive immigration reform.

Everyone will be more fearful and less safe? What world does Wallis live in? Seventy five percent of Arizonans favor the law including a majority of Hispanics. As things now stand many Arizonans living along the border fear for their lives. Indeed, a prominent rancher was murdered by illegals a couple of weeks ago. Wallis' speculation notwithstanding, I think American citizens are going to be quite relieved that their government is finally doing something to protect them.

Moreover, what moral and legal lines does it cross? Wallis hasn't yet told us. How is it mean-spirited to require people who come here to do so legally? Is it mean-spirited to ask of people who call at your house to refrain from just walking in and helping themselves to your refrigerator? Is it mean-spirited to lock the doors to your home and car? Is it mean-spirited if you return to your home and find that a stranger has taken up residence in your kitchen to ask that he please leave?

Wallis will say we are supposed to be hospitable to strangers and so we should, but our hospitality should be on our terms, not the stranger's. Our wish to help someone should be our choice, not his entitlement.

We all want to live in a nation of laws, and the immigration system in the U.S. is so broken that it is serving no one well. But enforcement without reform of the system is merely cruel. Enforcement without compassion is immoral. Enforcement that breaks up families is unacceptable.

We can all agree the system needs reform and we can all agree that cruelty is bad and compassion is good, but how is that relevant? If family members of legal residents are sent back home then those who love them and are here legally are free to go with them if they wish. Wallis makes it sound as though babies will be ripped from their mother's arms and forever separated from her bosom. He has no reason to say this other than he wants to put the Arizona law in the worst possible light.

And enforcement of this law would force us to violate our Christian conscience, which we simply will not do. It makes it illegal to love your neighbor in Arizona.

This is, of course, absurd. Nothing is stopping Arizonans from loving their neighbors. Nothing prevents them from giving of their resources to help meliorate the sometimes desperate conditions of others, but this can all be done without flooding the country with millions of people who place unsustainable burdens on public services, hospitals and schools.

There's much to lament in the rickety logic of Wallis' brief against the Arizona law, but it at least has the merit of confirming the suspicion of those who wish for stronger enforcement of our borders that there's no good argument against that position.