Reaction to Arizona’s tough new immigration law, which requires local and state police officers to ask individuals they stop about their immigration status, was swift and oh-so predictable.
The Rev. Al Sharpton compared it to South African apartheid and threatened to inundate the Southwestern state with “Freedom Walkers.” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said it was “mean-spirited.” Both President Barack Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the two Washington, D.C., officials who are sworn to secure the border, called it “misguided.”
The only people who approve, it seems, are the American citizens who have to live with the consequences of the federal government’s long-standing failure to enforce its own immigration laws and protect the country’s border with Mexico. Seventy percent of Arizonans — and 60 percent of people surveyed nationwide — favor the law signed last week by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. The bill’s chief sponsor, Republican state Sen. Russell Pearce, summed up local sentiment when he said that it will “take the handcuffs off the police and put them on violent criminals.”
This is not the first time the public has been at odds with policy makers in Washington, D.C., on immigration issues, and it won’t be the last. But it’s a clear warning that Obama will be on shaky political ground if he tries to ram an immigration bill through Congress without addressing border-security issues first.
An estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants reside in Arizona, which has become a main entry point for thousands of drug smugglers, human traffickers, potential terrorists and others who often commit violent crimes against innocent people and their property. To its credit, Arizona made several previous attempts to deal with the growing problem, with limited success. In 2005, human smuggling became a state crime. In 2007, employers were prohibited from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. But the invasion continued, and violent drug cartels have turned Phoenix into the kidnapping capital of the U.S.
Instead of finally cracking down on this clear threat to national security, Obama has ordered officials in the Justice Department — the same people who ignored Black Panther voter intimidation in Philadelphia — to assess the constitutionality of the new Arizona law. Previously, Napolitano stopped construction of the “virtual fence” that was supposed to make the border safe. And, Obama has refused requests from the states to send more National Guard troops to protect the border.
“We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act,” Brewer said shortly after signing the new law, which takes effect this summer.
Predictably enough, she is being vilified in the same Washington, D.C., that can’t be bothered with fulfilling its most basic duty: protecting the nation’s international borders.