Arizona and the failure of the Right

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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151 Responses

  1. T. Sifert says:

    I don’t see why the hypocrisy is tangible. Read Heather Mac Donald. State enforcement of existing federal law is not about (as in the way conservatives think of it) the expansion of government, but about federal failure. Law enforcement and states’ rights have always been major populist issues for the Right, especially in Arizona. Mac Donald is absolutely right about the real reason the law has such high approval:

    “The Arizona law is not about race; it’s not an attack on Latinos or legal immigrants. It’s about one thing and one thing only: making immigration enforcement a reality. It is time for a national debate: Do we or don’t we want to enforce the country’s immigration laws? If the answer is yes, the Arizona law is a necessary and lawful tool for doing so. If the answer is no, we should end the charade of inadequate, half-hearted enforcement, enact an amnesty now, and remove future penalties for immigration violations.”

    The only unusual thing here, though it certainly isn’t hypocritical, is the alignment of Compassionate Conservatives (and Catholic social conservatives) with liberals and libertarians.Report

    • Simon K in reply to T. Sifert says:

      @T. Sifert, The problem isn’t enforcement. Local law enforcement can already enforce federal criminal immigration law to some extent. The problem is the proposed mechanism of enforcement. The law empowers local cops to ask for immigration papers based on “reasonable suspicion”, a power they do not otherwise have, and then arrest people for not having papers. The problem with that is, American citizens don’t have to carry identification, so in fact it empowers local law enforcement to arrest American citizens and lawful immigrants for not having identification with them. Regardless of the question of which people are likely to get arrested – its obvious and doesn’t even bear stating – this is a massive expansion of police powers and obviously unconstitutional.Report

      • T. Sifert in reply to Simon K says:

        @Simon K, Well, enforcement “to some extent” is certainly part of the issue. See these two FindLaw articles for some background on the extent. But the point I was making is that this is not really an example of conservative hypocrisy.

        As for asking for papers, I will refer you once more to Mac Donald:

        “The law, SB 1070, empowers local police officers to check the immigration status of individuals whom they have encountered during a “lawful contact,” if an officer reasonably suspects the person stopped of being in the country illegally, and if an inquiry into the person’s status is ‘practicable.’ The officer may not base his suspicion of illegality ‘solely [on] race, color or national origin.’ (Arizona lawmakers recently amended the law to change the term ‘lawful contact’ to ‘lawful stop, detention or arrest’ and deleted the word ‘solely’ from the phrase regarding race, color, and national origin. The governor is expected to sign the amendments.) The law also requires aliens to carry their immigration documents, mirroring an identical federal requirement. Failure to comply with the federal law on carrying immigration papers becomes a state misdemeanor under the Arizona law.”

        and to UMKC law professor Kris Kobach, who helped author the bill:

        “[S]ince 1940, it has been a federal crime for aliens to fail to keep such registration documents with them. The Arizona law simply adds a state penalty to what was already a federal crime. Moreover, as anyone who has traveled abroad knows, other nations have similar documentation requirements.”

        and Byron York:

        “These days, natural-born U.S. citizens, and everybody else, too, are required to show a driver’s license to get on an airplane, to check into a hotel, even to purchase some over-the-counter allergy medicines. If it’s a burden, it’s a burden on everyone.”

        And finally to the Democratic plan for a national ID card:

        “The national ID program would be titled the Believe System, an acronym for Biometric Enrollment, Locally stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment. It would require all workers across the nation to carry a card with a digital encryption key that would have to match work authorization databases.” . . .

        “‘The biometric identification card is a critical element here,’ Durbin said. ‘For a long time it was resisted by many groups, but now we live in a world where we take off our shoes at the airport and pull out our identification.

        ‘People understand that in this vulnerable world, we have to be able to present identification,’ Durbin added. ‘We want it to be reliable, and I think that’s going to help us in this debate on immigration.'”Report

        • Simon K in reply to T. Sifert says:

          @T. Sifert, A few things:

          1. There’s a huge difference in civil liberties terms between having to show ID to access services and having to show it randomly at any time. Even that alone may be enough to make this unconstitutional.
          2. Arizona can’t add state penalties to a federal crime. Even if Arizona’s law were identical to federal law, its still unconstitutional because its outside their jurisdiction.
          3. The verbiage in the law to make it non-racist will have one of two consequences – it will either be ignored by local cops who are just itching to round up every Mexican looking person in the neighbourhood, in which case courts will rule against it on equal protection grounds, or it will be respected in which case the law is a dead letter except its unconstitutional anyway for other reasons.Report

          • historystudent in reply to Simon K says:

            Legal immigrants with green cards have always been required to carry said cards with them in case they were stopped by law enforcement or asked to produce it in other situations. This law does not require ID to be produced “randomly at any time.” Proof of legal residency must be produced, according to the law, if requested after “lawful contact.” There is nothing unreasonable about that.Report

            • Gold Star for Robot Boy in reply to historystudent says:

              @historystudent, Define “lawful contact.”
              Say there’s a hit-and-run crash in which a pedestrian is killed in front of witnesses. When the police go to interview those witnesses, can/should the witness also be asked for proof of citizenship?Report

              • historystudent in reply to Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

                Any person who is doing (or accused of it at least) something illegal always runs the risk of having contact with the law endforcement during the course of daily living. Illegal aliens are not different. Of course, if I were an illegal immigrant (or were a citizen with an outstanding arrest warrant out on me for something or other), I probably would not hang around to speak to police if I were a witness to such. Would I rather that an illegal alien do his duty and give witness testimony and be left unquestioned by the police, or take the chance that person would flee the scene to avoid being apprehended and repatriated to his own country? The latter. I prefer that law enforcement identify and detain illegal aliens when and where the opportunity legally arises.Report

              • Gold Star for Robot Boy in reply to Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

                “I prefer that law enforcement identify and detain illegal aliens when and where the opportunity legally arises.”

                Be prepared for a spike in crime in Latino neighborhoods – and then beyond them. Criminals will run free, safe in the knowledge the number of people willing to contact police just dropped dramatically.
                Last week, I mentioned to a police officer colleague this scenario, that the investigators wouldn’t have any witnesses to crimes.
                He scoffed. “Hell, we’re not going to have any *victims*.”Report

              • @Gold Star for Robot Boy, There was an amendment to the law pushed forward on Friday that specifically prohibits that scenario. Basically the only time the cops are supposed to check residency status is when someone is being detained for some kind of infraction. A witness at a crime scene would not fall into that category.Report

            • Simon K in reply to historystudent says:

              @historystudent, Yes. What happens to Green Card holders was never the issue. The issue was what happens to American citizens who are asked for ID based on “reasonably suspicion” and then arrested for being unable to prove citizenship. Allowing cops to arrest citizens for being suspicious was not a good idea. However, it seems the Arizona legislature has recognised the problem and basically fixed it by requiring that the police have to have stopped the person for a reasonably reason anyway – in my view this is fair enough.Report

    • Barry in reply to T. Sifert says:

      @T. Sifert, “Law enforcement and states’ rights have always been major populist issues for the Right, especially in Arizona. ”

      The day that the government starts levying huge fines against large employers of illegal immigrants will be the day that the above quote is true.Report

  2. Mike Farmer says:

    Do you promote open borders? Just curious.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    I don’t know what to say. “Papers, please” is insufficient.

    Any power that is given to the police to use against “bad people” will eventually be used indiscriminately.Report

    • Mike Farmer in reply to Jaybird says:



      But, if checking for documentation upon reasonable suspicion is insufficient, why do we have documentation? If documentation can’t be checked, what was the orginal purpose of documentation? If we had a free market economy, I’d say open the borders, but in a welfare state it’s national suicide to open the borders, or not check documentation. Statism requires these things, so it’s too late to complain about enforcement. Showing papers and indentification cards is part of the statist system — how else will the State know who is eligble for the numerous entitlements? It’s going to get worse out of necessity, as a consequence of a large, loose welfare state.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Mike Farmer says:

        @Mike Farmer, I’ve seen it said like this:

        1) Open Immigration
        2) Multiculturalism
        3) Robust Welfare State

        Pick two.

        I’m a fan of 1 and 2, myself. Anyhow, I’m not *SURPRISED* that immigration has started to make a stink… out of those three, it’s the only one that most folks feel like they have *ANY* say in whatsoever. The fact that this law passed within a few months of Health Care Reform makes perfect sense.

        That said, we used to brag about how other countries asked for “Papers, Please”(Nazi Germany, Communist Russia) and we, in the US, were “free”.

        And now we’re passing laws where The Authorities can ask you for your papers. This is messed up. The welfare state will eventually collapse. That’s what they do.

        I’d rather not give the police the power to ask for my papers before that happens.Report

        • Mike Farmer in reply to Jaybird says:



          I agree, but “papers please” is an inevitable part of statism. It’s unfortunate, but statist policies force groups to begin fighting one another over dwindling resources. The irony is that those who call the free market dog-eat-dog never look at statism’s inevitable result of dog-pack eating dog-pack, with the State in charge of which dog-pack to feed the most.Report

        • @Jaybird, Jaybird, You didn’t answer Mike’s question. If we shouldn’t ever ask for papers, why have them in the first place? Do you advocate a ‘paperless’ society?Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

            @Mike at The Big Stick, if I stopped you on the street right now, would you be able to prove that you are a US citizen?

            Is the only thing you’d be able to show me a Driver’s License and a library card? Would you have a passport on you?

            I ask because I presume that you don’t carry a passport (if, in fact, you have one in the first place… only 25% of Americans do, or so I recall reading on the web within the last week or so).

            Given that those of us who have papers don’t carry them, no… I don’t see the point in giving cops the authority to yank people for not having their papers.

            And that’s without getting into the whole “seatbelt law” nature of this. It’s not about “people should wear seatbelts” but “you know that more black people get pulled over for this crap than white people and it ain’t because black people disproportionately refuse to wear seatbelts”.Report

            • Mike Farmer in reply to Jaybird says:


              But, just a reasonable, practical viewpoint, how are immigration laws supposed to be enforced if you can’t verify papers. The police can’t stop just anyone and ask for papers — they can only inquire under certain conditions. From what I’ve read, these certain conditions are normal police work which involve some violation of the law. I don’t understand how illegal immigration can ever be investigated, discovered and prosecuted if we can’t verify citizenship. If I was hispanic and a legal citizen, and I understood the problem of illegal immigration, and if I was taken in for some law violation, I’d have to understand the reason for the inquiry regarding immigration status. If I was just walking down the street and got stopped, and they asked for papers, I’d tell them to get lost, then sue them if they harrassed me. Maybe I misunderstand the law, but from what I understand, it’s reasonable to have some ability, under the right circumstances to check for immigration status — otherwise, you might as well have an open border. Because, once in the country, anyone can get false i.d. and go undetected. I might just be looking at it all wrong — I don’t know — I’m just trying to be reasonable without making assumptions about police violations — they can get in a lot of trouble in a heated, vigilant atmosphere f they harrass people.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mike Farmer says:

                @Mike Farmer, praise Jesus, I am neither reasonable nor practical.

                It’s a bad law. I don’t give a crap whether cops are hindered from carrying it out. Cops enforcing bad laws to the best of their ability is part of the problem with statism.

                I don’t care that it’s difficult to follow bad orders. We should make it more so.Report

              • @Mike Farmer,

                Okey dokey. It really doesn’t matter what we think — if the federal government doesn’t deal with the problem, the people effected by it will. It’s going to cause more problems if they have to deal with the problem, then be castigated as racists on top it. I don’t think the federal government realizes what it’s stirring up. When people feel threatened and don’t believe they have anywhere to turn, it can get ugly. I’m just saying.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mike Farmer says:

                @Mike Farmer, well, sure.

                This is covered in “Road To Serfdom”.

                I’m not talking about what I think is likely to happen. When it comes to “likely”, I think that a shootout is likely. Hell, I’m surprised that we’ve made it this far without a Constitutional Crisis.Report

            • @Jaybird, Jaybird, yes, I would have no problem proving my citizenship. I carry a driver’s license.

              The point you’re still not acknowledging is that with the new amendments the police are only going to be checking residency status in a situation where they would already be checking someone out anyway. For example, it’s SOP for the police to run a quick check for warrants, etc in a traffic stop. Likewise if you get caught shoplifting. Etc. These are all situations where the police are going to demand some ID and the citizenry is obliged to provide.Report

      • Simon K in reply to Mike Farmer says:

        @Mike Farmer, I don’t think I buy it. What’s so hard about making non-permanent immigrants ineligible for welfare benefits? Then where’s the problem?Report

  4. Francis says:

    Of course the law is about race and class. If the State were actually serious about cracking down on the presence of illegal immigrants, then it would impose mandatory minimum fines of $5,000 per person per day on every person found employing illegal immigrants, a on a strict liability basis (ie, lack of knowledge is no defense). The State could set up sweeps and stings in which illegals seek work in the hospitality, building trade, day labor and agricultural industries, then squeal on the owners. It wouldn’t be the State, then, demanding evidence of citizenship, but employers instead.

    Now, powerful interests in the State might scream like stuck pigs. But it would cut way down on the attraction of the State to illegal immigrants: jobs.Report

  5. Bob Cheeks says:

    OMG, arresting and deporting illegals! What’s this country coming to?
    God bless Arizona!Report

  6. greginak says:

    I can empathize with your position about living in Arizona with this new law. Living in Alaska has been different since our former half term governor came on the scene.

    Conservatives have been making some lame excuses. Anybody who doesn’t see who is going to be the target of this is naive. Latino’s will be stopped just for being Latino. This is all about race.

    Although i do have a desire to go to some big ass retirement community, claim i saw illegals at the pool and bar and call the police. Let the sunburnt archie bunkers show their ID’s.

    What with the Senate putting out a starter plan on immigration, this is only the start of this raving, raging debaate.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to greginak says:

      @greginak, That’s for sure. The Dems in their infinite stupidity have included a National ID program in the initial drafts of their immigration bill. Maybe if we can build a high enough wall around the country and then make sure we know who and where everyone is within that wall at all times everything will be okay.Report

      • Barry in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        @E.D. Kain, “The Dems in their infinite stupidity have included a National ID program in the initial drafts of their immigration bill. ”

        Jeez Louise – do you really think that a major illegal immigration prevention is realistic without a national ID?

        If you want government to have the practical ability to seriously police who lives here, then certain things follow.Report

      • ThatPirateGuy in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        @E.D. Kain,

        If i recall under the deomcratic plan identity verification is only required at the time of employment. Something which is already required. The id is to make the check that you already have to do more accurate.

        It isn’t the same as asking people for their documentation as they walk down the street. Could something like it be abused and turned into that? Yes, see Arizona, USA.Report

  7. steve says:

    “OMG, arresting and deporting illegals! What’s this country coming to?”

    And when they come back? You are creating another government run industry, akin to the war on drugs. Lots of money spent, accidental killings of innocents and just as many illegals as when you started. Arrest and deport those hiring the illegals and you break the cycle. Allow for more legal immigration and you break the cycle.


  8. Bob Cheeks says:

    The trick is to make it unpleasant…got any ideas? Then there’s His Magnificence’s economy, or lack there of. Seems Americans might be needing those jobs.Report

  9. Scott says:


    What is wrong with wanting to stop the illegals from coming into the US? The fed gov has not been serious about stopping them. The Dems just keeping wanting to give the illegals amnesty with the bizarre ides that doing so will somehow stop them. Maybe land mines are the right idea.Report

    • Dave in reply to Scott says:


      Constitutional law recognizes killing or maiming someone as a form of seizure. Per the Fourth Amendment, seizures must be reasonable. Having people step on land mines long before they are ever a threat to anyone does not qualify as reasonable.

      Also, if the government wants to deprive an individual of his or life, a certain process has to follow that does not involve land mines, a sniper’s bullet or whatever other crazy ideas I’ve heard tossed about in the Right blogosphere.Report

      • Scott in reply to Dave says:


        Yes I know about the 4th amend, I was there for that day in Con law. However, we have to do something to stop the invasion from the south or we might as well all learn Spanish.Report

        • Dave in reply to Scott says:


          So then why say landmines are a good idea? I think your ConLaw Professor would have given you an F- on that one.Report

          • Mark Thompson in reply to Dave says:

            @Dave, C’mon, Dave. Everybody knows that the Constitution isn’t a suicide pact. It’s a mass-homicide pact.Report

          • Scott in reply to Dave says:


            I say landmines are a good idea b/c they work. I’m sure Prof Shanor would have given me an F- but when you are in school you give the liberal blowhards the answer they want to hear. However, I would settle for a fence but the Dems seem to object to anything short of open borders and amnesty.Report

            • Dave in reply to Scott says:


              You know, there’s a reason that people like Robert Bork and Rauol Berger aren’t studied in conlaw classrooms and my guess is that it has less to with liberal blowhard professors and more to do with their discredited theories.

              Just sayin’Report

        • Travis in reply to Scott says:

          @Scott, people are coming here because they want to be Americans, because they believe in our nation’s ideals of freedom, opportunity and justice — things they often can’t get in their home countries. There is nothing more American than that.

          I guess you think the Statue of Liberty should be melted down for scrap metal.

          I’ll also remind you that we are all illegal immigrants on land we stole from the Native Americans. To say nothing of the unprovoked war of conquest we waged to seize the Southwest in the first place. We have no moral high ground to stand upon.Report

          • Scott in reply to Travis says:


            Those people that break the law to come here make a mockery of everything they claim they want. Sorry but we simply can’t let in everyone from every third world cesspool come here. Why is the US the only country that is expected to throw its borders open and speak their language? I don’t think anyone has any moral high ground so it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Scott says:

              @Scott, if we threw our borders open, we’d have dozens and dozens of languages showing up.

              As it is, only one language is showing up.

              Ironically, we’d be a lot more likely to have something akin to universal English if there were a veritable Tower of Babel moving here than if more than half of them only spoke one.Report

              • Scott in reply to Jaybird says:


                You must have missed but we already have dozens of languages in this country and ,some immigrants don’t even bother to learn English b/c the gov’t coddles them and provides almost every form in their language.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                @Scott, the Arizona law that inspired this post strikes me as somewhat unconcerned about Croats who still speak Croatian exclusively.

                The wacky thing about any discussion of “Illegal Immigration” is how it manages to avoid the fact that 57% (I swear I read that somewhere yesterday) of immigrants come here from one particular country… and the percentage of Illegal Immigrants that comes from that one country is likely to be in the 90’s. (If it’s in the 80’s, I’ll be surprised, if it’s in the 70’s, I’ll be shocked.)Report

              • Scott in reply to Jaybird says:


                Now I see, you are one of those folks who believe that since, 70 , 80 or 90% percent of those affected by this law happen to be Hispanic that the law must be racist. Last time I checked the language of the bill at issue, the bill didn’t mention or specifically target Hispanics. Why didn’t you just say so in the first place instead of talking about languages?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                @Scott, nope.

                I don’t think it’s about “racism” at all. I think that it’s much more likely to be a reaction to the language barrier (If you watch Dora the Explorer in English, she teaches you Spanish, right? If you watch it in Spanish, SHE DOES NOT TEACH YOU ENGLISH!!!!) and, to a lesser degree, about cultural differences.

                It’s got *NOTHING* to do with race and *EVERYTHING* to do with a backlash to multiculturalism.Report

              • Scott in reply to Jaybird says:


                So the issue isn’t illegal immigrants but multiculturalism?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                @Scott, I suspect that they’re intertwined.

                The reason that we care so much about illegal immigration is (the failure of) multiculturalism.Report

  10. dexter45 says:

    At long last. Mr. Cheeks and I agree on something. I think the best way to get the illegals out is to go after the people who hire them. Fine the hell out of them, take away their business license, and send a few of them to jail. Americans would stop hiring illegals and the illegals would get in their cars and drive home.Report

    • Simon K in reply to dexter45 says:

      @dexter45, Except they wouldn’t. Because there are too many businesses that have to hire illegal immigrants to survive. They’d keep doing it, and risk the fines. The level of enforcement needed to prevent this is economically impossible, not to mention a terrible idea anyway.Report

      • E.D. Kain in reply to Simon K says:

        @Simon K, I agree, Simon. Hugely expensive and completely ignorant of the actual need for labor. Trust me, plenty of industries could not operate the way they do without this influx of labor. And like I keep saying, the influx of labor leads to a more robust economy anyways. Making more slots available for legal workers is the best way forward.Report

    • Pat Cahalan in reply to dexter45 says:


      How do you verify that someone has a legal right to work in this country?

      I’ll give you a hint, it starts with a TamperProof (TM) Identity Card… which is a magic pixie dust object that does not exist in the real world.

      Logistically, you’d have to create a government agency much larger than the combined Dept. of Motor Vehicles of each state, and it would move at 1/10th of the speed.

      And you’d still have people with fake papers.Report

  11. dexter45 says:

    Please explain why it is a terrible idea. I come to this site because most of the people write well, but sometimes I need more information.Report

    • Simon K in reply to dexter45 says:

      @dexter45, Large chunks of the US economy are dependent on illegal immigrants. Effective enforcement would cause huge disruption to farming, construction, various domestic services, and so on. So the federal government pussy-foots around trying to pretend to enforce the law, because for inexplicably reasons people approve of it, while mostly not actually doing so. Arizona’s law will probably end up doing the same thing.Report

      • North in reply to Simon K says:

        @Simon K, Don’t agree Simon. I’m opposed to the Arizona Law and think conservatives are going wingding on the issue but the economic argument doesn’t hold water. If illegal immigrants were to be removed as an employment option then the industries would adapt just fine. Lets go down the list;
        Farming: Automation would fill in for some of the low labor positions. Slightly higher wages would provide some labor to fill further jobs. Finally those agricultural products that are completely uneconomical at wages that legal workers will work for would close up shop and export to other countries with the climates and workforces ideally suited for them. We’d still get our winter strawberries; we’d just fly them in from Brazil instead of California. Our poor neighbors get an industry and we can stop wasting billions of dollars growing strawberries in the desert. Win/win.
        Construction: There is a bit of a glut in housing and construction right now so demand will remain slack. The industry is in a tough bind right now and removal of illegals would make it tougher. Construction is non-optional though. Wages would go up. Legal employees would fill the jobs. Possibly the cost of buildings and construction would increase. Pricier building costs yes but better paying jobs for legal citizens all over the country. I’ll be conservative and call this a wash.
        Domestic Services: The south adapted just fine to the ultimate end of inexpensive domestic servants (the demise of slavery). Based on this history we know for a fact that we do not need illegal immigrants working at slave wages to fill these rolls. Wages increase for housekeepers, maids, kitchen staff etc and legal citizens fill the jobs. Maybe hotel and restaurant prices go up some but again nothing the economy can’t handle. Maybe some people will cook at home a bit more rather than pay for restaurant food. This diminishes a wedge that causes obesity. I’d say win/win.

        So the country can do just fine without illegal immigrant labor. In order for illegal immigrant labor to end, however, there would have to be a confrontation of business interests which neither party would fancy having. The Republicans talk a lot about controlling immigration but they never propose going after the source of it; the employers. A simple program could end the issue: Offer a bounty on illegal immigrant employers. Any illegal immigrant who turns in their employer gets a reward (dependant on the size of the employer) and a fast track to legal immigration. Suddenly every illegal immigrant employee is a ticking time bomb. Illegal immigrant employment would whither.

        This of course would require both a solid relatively reliable system for identifying legal workers and would be utter poison for both parties. So of course it’s a political non-starter. Better for the left to just ignore the issue (and why not, it’s not a huge issue for them) and better for the right to just flail around at the border chasing “coyotes”. It gives them an issue for their bubba voters and keeps the Militiamen employed.Report

        • Simon K in reply to North says:

          @North, I partly agree with you, North, that illegal labour could actually be substituted out. Most things can be when it comes down to it, but prices would certainly rise in many areas and I’m scared of the unintended consequences, Contrary to popular belief the costs of employing illegal labor are potentially ruinous, so employers who do it must have their reasons.

          I’d really prefer to simply legalize the employment of foreigners provided certain conditions were met. To whit: pay all applicable taxes, have the state provide a path to permanent residency and citizenship if chosen (most won’t), and abide by existing labour laws. At that point I don’t see the harm in it.Report

          • North in reply to Simon K says:

            @Simon K, As has been noted above, as long as the government provides a safety net unlimited immigration would remain severely problematic.
            There are, of course, some penalties for being caught employing illegal immigrants but in the current system the enforcement mechanism; yahoos in jeeps screeching around on the border and an occasional investigator trying to poke around a meat packing plant; is so ineffective that most employers have little fear of being caught.Report

            • Simon K in reply to North says:

              @North, How is the welfare state a problem? Just make legal immigrants ineligible until they become permanent residents. That’s pretty much how it works already – work visa holders don’t get unemployment or most tax credits.Report

              • North in reply to Simon K says:

                @Simon K, Simon, since we are (to our great credit) unwilling to allow people, citizen or not, to die in the streets illegal immigrants would continue to be a not insignificant weight on the safety net.Report

              • Simon K in reply to Simon K says:

                @North, That’s fair, although as a matter of fact work visa holders are ineligible for most welfare benefits in most places in the US, so I’m not suggesting a massive change in existing policy. The idea being generally that if you need state assistance you can go back to your country of citizenship. In many cases the US will actually send you back, or require your sponsor to pay for it. I don’t see the problem with extending this policy to any proposed new work visa scheme and/or reaching agreements for reciprocal payments with various countries of origin as the US does for social security and other programs. I think the welfare state problem is overblown and basically solvable once you normalize the position of most migrants – right now its a problem because the economic demand for migrant labour, plus poorly enforced laws, plus lousy laws of documentation create a vicious cycle.Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to North says:

              This is exactly backwards.

              So long as the government provides an unlimited safety net for the ELDERLY (like it does in the US), unrestricted immigration in the long run is necessary to keep the demographic numbers in line to keep it functioning.

              Point being:
              The legal immigration system is broken.

              Fix that and you no longer have an “illegal immigrant” problem.Report

              • North in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                @Nob Akimoto, Nob, I don’t disagree, in fact I think this is a feature rather than a bug because as I stated before I am opposed to most of the hoopla about immigration. I think it’s a good thing that our society doesn’t force us to franticly breed children in hopes that they’ll wipe our chins in our dotage. I think it’s a good thing that population growth in developed countries levels out and starts declining (from an environmental standpoint this is a huge endorsement of market economics, it makes the population decline). I’m entirely in favor of liberalizing the legal immigrant system.

                What I reject is the notion that we are irrevocably addicted to illegal immigrant labor that is being employed at low wages and horrible working conditions. We could very as a country easily absorb the cost of raising the wages to the level necessary to attract legal workers. Those industries that can’t should probably not be here. They should be in second or third world countries helping them develop into first world countries.

                And of course the GOP is mind blowingly false on the whole thing. They want to ineffectively zip around in hummers shooting at brown people. If they truly wished to do something about illegal immigrants they would do something about legal immigration, sure, but most especially they would go after the employers which currently they are loathe to do.Report

            • Barry in reply to North says:

              @North, “Contrary to popular belief the costs of employing illegal labor are potentially ruinous, so employers who do it must have their reasons. ”

              Seconding North – that doesn’t seem to be the case.Report

        • E.D. Kain in reply to North says:

          @North, I think you’re simplifying things, North. Couldn’t we say the same about free trade? We’d be just fine if we threw up a bunch of tariffs, banned outsourcing jobs, etc. right? No negative consequences. We’d adapt.Report

          • North in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            @E.D. Kain, Certainly there’s some degree of simplification E.D. if we were looking at any signs of serious inflation or if unemployment were low maybe the parallel you draw would work for me but I’d say that this is almost the reverse of your free trade example.

            Look, in all the discussion on this I’ve read the only industry that plausibly can’t survive at the wages and conditions we mandate in this country strikes me as being certain types of agriculture. I have zero sympathy for that line of thinking. If anything free trade would be the solution. Those goddamn strawberries or heads of lettuce shouldn’t be growing in American deserts in the first place if it’s uneconomical. Maybe they should be growing in Mexico or Colombia or wherever at wages the local labor force will happily accept. Then our neighbors get genuine industries, we get incrementally more expensive produce (but not necessarily very much, consider the idiotic sums of money we spend to make those deserts bloom).Report

  12. Rufus says:

    I don’t really understand why there’s so much emphasis on ‘securing the borders’ by building a bigger wall, or why people sneak across that way in the first place. It seems to me that it’s a lot easier just to come over legally and not leave when the time is up. When my wife and I were dating, all she had to do was give them my name and rough idea of where I lived and promise to come back before her time was up and she was fine. They’d threaten to come get her if she didn’t come back, but how likely is that? Then, every time she’d help me clean up my apartment, I’d joke about her being a foreigner taking work from an American.

    Admittedly, it might be easier for her to visit the states since she’s white, Canadian and pretty.

    Incidentally, they might want to think about the huge unsecured border up here. Flights from Mexico to Canada can’t be as expensive as paying some border smuggler, and then you can pretty much just walk over. My father in Maine has gone out hunting before and walked into a bar only to realize he was in Canada.Report

  13. Nob Akimoto says:

    I love how markets are the solution to EVERYTHING until it comes to immigration.

    Come, pray my conservative friends.

    What is the magical market fairy’s answer to immigration?

    I’m pretty sure it’s not: “let’s put landmines on the border”.Report

    • Alright, putting the snark stick aside for a moment.

      There’s a structural failure with the immigration system that is making the illegal immigration problem exist. I fail to see how people who somehow on one hand endorse legalizing drugs on one hand can on the other think that more prohibition on immigration will lead to better outcomes.

      You have to deal with the root of the problem which is fundamentally a demand problem with economics and labor movement/availability. (There’s also a cultural element here too, by the way. Americans are certainly not willing to stomach some of the price increases that would come from paying prevailing wages for some of the labor that’s staffed by illegals)

      Also it does bring back an interesting part of the 1880s “golden age” contradiction when you also realize stuff like the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in the 1880s.Report

      • Bob Cheeks in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        @Nob Akimoto, All good points. Also, isn’t the crimes committed by ‘illegals’ very high, not to mention the cost in welfare transfers. So have we factored that in against the increase in costs if we required the hiring of American citizens?
        No ‘illegal’ should ever receive any welfare transfers either in housing, food, health care…nada, nothing..ever. Then we’ll see how many Mexican and those from the countries south of Mexico want to come here ‘illegally.’
        Also, historically the USA clamped down on immigration from time to time, depending on labor needs.
        This is about commie-Dems wanting voters and GOP bidnessmen wanting cheap labor while the systems humps the hell outta the taxpayers.Report

        • Nob Akimoto in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

          @Bob Cheeks,
          There’s actually very little evidence to suggest crime rates are higher among illegal immigrants than any other group. (In fact they have a particular incentive to avoid being noticed by officials which makes criminal activity less likely.)

          As an added note: many illegal immigrants do pay taxes under the mistaken belief that it’s actually a path towards citizenship or legalization. In general the net social safety net receipts that go towards illegal immigrants is grossly inflated, and less than the gross income that they generate.

          As for the historical clamp downs on immigration, they’ve usually also been transparently been motivated by racism and bigotry not by labor needs, and included some odious provisions against personal liberty such as the seizure of personal property. I can’t see how that’s a model that anyone who speaks of liberty would want to go back to. Just look at the late 19th/early 20th century laws to see just how egregiously racist many of those bills were.

          Honestly it’s simply about economics.

          The US needs more labor of certain categories it certainly doesn’t possess. It takes it from its immigration system, but because the system can’t fill that need due to government policy, a black market (illegal immigration) exists instead.Report

          • Bob Cheeks in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            @Nob Akimoto, Excellent, and considering the current and projected Obama economy and its uncertainty wouldn’t the country be better served by earmarking those low wage ag jobs to Americans, considering that there will have to be cut backs on welfare spending?
            I trust you’re an expert on these matters because I’ve hit your explanation like a carp hitting doughball..but I do love the high number of ‘illegals’ in prison and the high cost of welfare for ‘illegal’ argument a lot.
            Truth is that the Mexicans I’ve personally known were outrageously hard working, honorable dudes!Report

            • Bob Cheeks in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

              @Bob Cheeks, Also, your argument begs the question: we’re talking about “legal” and “illegal” immigration.
              And, the more I think about it, the costs for the children of ‘illegals’ , for health care, etc., must be outrageous…in California alone!! Come on dude you’re bustin’ me here!Report

          • Scott in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            @Nob Akimoto,

            By the very fact that they are here illegally they are committing a crime. I know of no other group that everyone is a criminal. Recently however there have been some high profile crimes by illegals one was a well know rancher, Robert Krentz and the other was a AZ deputy.



            • Barry in reply to Scott says:

              @Scott, “Recently however there have been some high profile crimes by illegals one was a well know rancher, Robert Krentz and the other was a AZ deputy.”

              By that standard, we should have imprisoned Operation Rescue by now, for murders and bombings.Report

              • Scott in reply to Barry says:


                Nice try but you can’t change the fact that illegals cause crime some of it violent that otherwise wouldn’t happen but for their very presence.Report

    • @Nob Akimoto,

      Who says markets are the answer to EVERYTHING?

      Please give some names and how they propose markets defend our borders?Report

      • @Mike Farmer,
        Let’s take an argument I often hear about why there’s black markets:
        Illegal activity typically exists because the sphere for legal activity is overly constrained by undue regulation and restrictions by government entities.

        Fundamentally, immigration issues are one of labor mobility and demand. We can talk about aspirations and culture and whatever else, but the basic fact is people immigrate based on economic fundamentals. In effect the market for labor requires certain types of labor (skilled and unskilled both) and people immigrate to a country based on filling that need.

        If the volume of that need is small and the immigration policies themselves are reasonable, it can be filled entirely with legal immigrants. The problem is when you have 1. an immigration policy that is wildly at odds with the demands your entire economy is making on labor, 2. the rest of your economy is unwilling to stomach the costs associated with making that migration unnecessary. (For example: Raising prices on produce significantly so that prevailing wage makes it attractive to American citizens, or reducing access to certain types of services that required highly skilled labor because there’s a domestic shortage)

        In such an example, simply clamping down on the supply side (i.e. the immigrants themselves and their crossing the border) does nothing but further criminalize the behavior and provide entry for less scrupulous individuals in facilitating that behavior.

        Worse, everyone knows the policy is poorly designed, and should be changed to reflect the actual economy reality of the US rather than what passed for the reality several decades ago.

        Marijuana in fact is probably the best parallel to immigration in terms of the policy challenges. On one hand currency policy make no actual policy sense. They’re wrong-headed in how to fix a problem, they’re designed around standards that existed decades ago and they tackle a “problem” that honestly isn’t very harmful on the whole. Indeed there’s plenty of evidence and studies that show that immigration doesn’t have that big of an impact on wages just as pot smoking doesn’t cause people to go on violent sociopathic streaks. However there still exists strong cultural resistance to reform for reasons ranging from misguided (but well meaning) concerns for social cohesion to outright bigotry.

        There’s a couple points here.

        1. Immigration is primarily an economic problem. If anything is tailored for a market based solution, it’s sorting out problems regarding labor mobility. Because it is by definition an economic problem. (Pia Orrenius at the Dallas FSB for example gave a wonderful talk on market-
        based solutions to immigration recently)

        2. Cracking down on supply isn’t going to fix it. You need to acknowledge, holistically that there is a problem of there being a demand for immigrant labor for one reason or another (again: whether this is a shortage of skilled workers via H1Bs or a lack of people willing to do the jobs that require unskilled labor) and you can either adjust your immigration policies to take into account this reality or you can keep trying to blame the people who are simply trying to fill the demand created by American consumers and businesses.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      @Nob Akimoto, Actually markets could be in this case. Rather than having a heavy-handed state try to stop immigration we could open up legal immigration much wider and let the markets absorb a huge number of new workers and consumers. Free trade and free movement of labor go hand in hand.Report

      • historystudent in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        @E.D. Kain, Given the state of our national economy and the world economy, this idea would only result in a considerably lower standard of living for Americans. Not to mention, more crowding, more pollution, more health care costs, etc.Report

        • @historystudent,

          Wages are stagnant and many countries are increasing their standard of living in comparison to the United States. Globalization moves most low skill jobs elsewhere (at least, as long as we keep using bunker fuel to move goods across the ocean).

          If our standard of living is artificially enhanced by our border policy, eventually we are going to lose.Report

      • Mike Farmer in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        @E.D. Kain,

        I agree, as long as we have a free market — a vibrant market would need the extra help. Border security, though, is a responsibility of the federal government.Report

  14. Erik, if the general support for this law represents the right’s “failure,” what would success look like? Isn’t it the case that the right has “failed” in your estimation because it has not adopted a sufficiently pro-immigration view? Don’t the amendments to the law that have now been added remove most of the potential for abuse that bothers you? Are rule of law arguments irrelevant so long as illegal immigration boosts productivity and state tax coffers?Report

    • @Daniel Larison,

      This is a good point, but even going with the productivity argument, if illegals weren’t used as slave laborers, wages would rise to a point that unemployed Americans would take the jobs without having to live ten to a trailer. In reality, using illegals as slaves puts Americans out of work, increasing tax payer support through unemployment checks. We could probably go get boatloads of Africans to work for slave wages, live ten to a trailer and boost productivity — I wonder if anyone has thought about that?Report

      • trumwill in reply to Mike Farmer says:

        Don’t construe this as a swipe at you personally, because I don’t know your views on the minimum wage, but there is a certain disconnect on the right that is extremely concerned about livable wages when it’s illegal immigrants disrupting it but when it comes to dramatically increasing the minimum wage it shifts gears and suddenly higher wages for low-skill workers would be extremely bad for the economy because it would raise prices and/or business simply can’t afford to pay their employees that much while remaining profitable.

        Either employers can afford to pay people more than they do or they can’t. Either the subsequent raise in prices (which would then require an even higher wage to make ends meet) is significant or it is not. Either employers would automate or outsource or make due with less labor in the face of higher labor costs or they would not. If you apply these dynamics to one issue, there needs to be a pretty good reason as to why they wouldn’t apply to the other.Report

        • Mike Farmer in reply to trumwill says:


          In a free market, wages are decided between the owner who needs work done and the worker needing to work.

          You can’t apply that to a market disabled by government intervention. With government intervention, everyone effected begins gaming the system — they are either forced to game the system, or they take advantage of it. But there’s no need to demonize my concern for slave wages — just stick with that and justify it. You can assume that if I have a moral concern for hispanics treated like slaves, that extends to all humans.

          I believe in a free market precisely because I care about people, otherwise, I’d say whatever benefits me is best, screw the rest.Report

          • trumwill in reply to Mike Farmer says:

            @Mike Farmer,

            I’m not demonizing your concern for anything. I do question the sincerity of those on the right that on one hand say that higher wages in the form of a minimum wage hike could be disastrous but higher wages in the form of a reduced (and regulated) labor supply would be preferable. But as I said, that may not apply to you specifically. It’s more of a general observation.

            I am a bit confused, though, is your primary concern the fact that the immigrants come here and work for such sparse wages or is it that it suppresses the wages of American workers (and/or prices them out of the market)? If it’s the former, that can be addressed by letting them in here legally (and giving them redress if they are not being treated fairly by their employer), though that would have a detrimental effect on the latter for sure.

            It’s the latter I am more concerned about. Immigrants can come here or not come here depending on whether the arrangement is worthwhile for them. I assume that as bad as the deal is, it’s still better than the deal they get back home, so it’s of a secondary concern. So I’m more concerned about the effect of immigration levels (legal and illegal) on American wages. However, unlike Bruce Bartlett and others, I don’t limit this concern to the immigration debate.

            A true free market includes a free flow of labor. Immigrants coming up here and working for really cheap would be a positive and wages being driven up by restricting labor capacity with restricted immigration rates would be a negative. Obviously, there are reasons that we don’t do this. But they are not market-friendly reasons, to say the least.Report

            • Mike Farmer in reply to trumwill says:


              I really dont care if wages fall, as long as the system isn’t rigged by government intervention. If wages all over the US fell, so would prices — it’s the difference in wages and living expenses that matter, not if wages are high are low. Plus, a little deflation would help exports. Government intervention inflates wages on one hand, then allows slave wages on the other — government needs to get out of the way and let employers and employees work out wages. The market signals which should set wages and prices are constantly thrown off by government intervention, or inaction, in the case of immigration — I’m all for making it easier for immigrants to come to US. If they are here legally, they will benefit from our system, but as long as they are being used as slaves, while they might be better off than when in Mexico, it’s still a poor way to treat people. I’ve spent a lot of time in a small Ga town which uses illegals in onion fields — reminds me of the share croppers in the 60s on my grandfather’s farm — terrible conditions. Unless you’ve witnessed the living conditions, you can’t understand.Report

      • @Mike Farmer, I don’t know what it’s like in other states, but here in KY Mexicans working in landscaping or roofing (the two largest occupations) make equivelant wages to their white counterparts. When you throw in company-provided housing some actually make more. Talking to friends and family in the industry, the reason they hire Mexicans is because they are tireless workers and they are relaible far beyond their American counterparts. I have a friend who owns a landscaping business and he prefers Mexican to American labor.Report

    • @Daniel Larison, Daniel – the right has failed for innumerable other reasons as well – many of which you bring to my attention daily. On immigration they are not pro-immigration enough in simple, practical terms. We need to enforce our immigration laws, and I would support a great deal more funding for the border patrol, but unless we open up legal immigration much wider we are fighting an endless war akin to the war on drugs. Some have mentioned going after employers. Fine. Good luck with that. Wage stagnation has also been mentioned. Again – open up legal immigration much wider and you will see an increase in wages across the board. This law will only make law enforcement more difficult, because it conflates two wars – that of immigration and the war on drugs. Police will find their jobs much more difficult in the latter war if they cannot rely on the assistance of the immigrant community. Etc. etc. This is a failure of the right because they fail to understand the problem. In my estimation it is just as futile and stupid as their belief in nation-building. If we are to build empires we should do it right, go all out. Similarly, if we want to clamp down on the movement of labor, we may as well clamp down on free trade as well. If we use half measures we’ll never achieve anything. But that’s too authoritarian for me, so I would advocate opening up – legalizing immigrants and incorporating them into the broader culture. We’ll need more workers not fewer in the long run.Report

      • Mike Farmer in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        @E.D. Kain,

        Right and left have failed, because both have failed to embrace free market solutions and force government to stick to its knitting. Political concerns are blocking government from performing it’s duty to deal with immigration. Blaming the right is fashionable, but it misses the mark.Report

      • North in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        @E.D. Kain, E.D. while I generally agree that more legal immigration is desirable I’m failing to see what the line of reasoning is that suggests that higher amounts of immigration will amount to higher wages. If the supply of labor goes up I’d think it’d follow that the cost of it goes down.Report

  15. dexter45 says:

    The two things that have hurt blue collar workers the most are free trade and being inundated by the illegals.
    While far from fluent, I speak enough Spanish to have one on one conversations with the more patient Hispanics. The situation in their county is horrible. The difference between the haves and the have nots is astounding and I do not for one second blame them for trying to
    make a better life. I think of myself as somewhat adventurous person and might have done the same thing. The problem lies with the people who hire them.
    Lastly, I am a blue collar worker and I do not mind competing with the Swedes or the Germans. They pay their help well and have a serious social safety net. I do, on the other hand, not like competing with the Chinese who think fifty cents an hour is a good job, so yes, I am all in favor of fair trade, but this free trade irks me. Someone on this blog with more time, brains and resources might check out the different duties that are charged for American goods in China and South Korea.Report

  16. historystudent says:

    “Conservatives have their limited-government priorities all wrong.”

    I don’t think so. I’d say this ( is a good summary of the main concerns of conservatives, and it is focused quite well on limited government, fiscal responsibility, tax reform, a different type of health care reform, etc. There is nothing in that defending the erosion of civil liberties which has been going on for decades in one form or another. I do think it emphasizes economic freedom more than necessary; there are other types of freedom (such as a reasonable right to privacy, and religious and social freedoms. But generally, these are solid priorities.

    Did you read the law? Many of the statement being made about it are pure hyberbole. Basically the law just wants to enforce what is already federal law but which isn’t being properly enforced by the feds. Other countries, including Mexico, have far more stringent immigration laws than we do. I think we need to enforce ours, and if the federal government refuses to do its constitutional job, then the states will have to take matters into their own hands. That’s a conservative approach, I know, and it is the right one, to my mind. Border security is serious business and needs to be treated that way.Report

    • @historystudent,

      Good points. What’s not considered is — the Arizona police are prohibited from stopping anyone with brown skin and asking for their papers — if they do, and the courts will not find them in violation, then their system is totally broken and the whole argument is moot. If law enforcement in Arizona is that evil, then there’s a bigger problem which wouldn’t be restricted to this law. Until they violate the law, I’m not going to assume they will.Report

  17. greginak says:

    So there were many large rallies around the country (numbering in the tens of thousands) against the Arizona immigration law. HMMMMM I wonder if the various news outlets will be interviewing, analyzing and coronating the participants a new major force in American politics.

    HMMM I wonder what the general reaction in the news and from the populace would be if some of those marchers who are American citizens were packing guns.

    Will the protesters be the Guac Party or Tamale Party? But more important then all of that is WHAT WILL THE TEA PARTY PEOPLE THINK OF THIS?Report