Show Us Your Papers Please!

Steven Greenhut: Republican legislators gathered on the north steps of the state Capitol today to pitch AB26, which would clamp down on illegal immigration. Modeled after Arizona’s controversial anti-illegal-immigration law, the bill would “beef up enforcement of immigration laws against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and make being in California illegally punishable as a misdemeanor,” according to the Victor Valley Daily Press. “It aims to end so-called sanctuary cities by enabling residents to sue the government over lax enforcement.” Members of the Service Employees International Union were on the sidewalks making catcalls as various officials and crime victims addressed a crowd that seemed dominated by Tea Party members.

The keynote address was delivered by Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, who authored that state’s SB1070. Pearce said that his state’s law passed with 75 percent support and that 60 percent of Latinos approve of it. “Illegal is not a race, it’s a crime.” Pearce hammered business owners who hire illegal workers and called for an end to “profits over patriotism.” He said the Arizona law caused a remarkable drop in crime in his state. Pearce and others talked a great deal about crimes committed by illegal immigrants. The father of a teen-ager murdered in Los Angeles by an illegal immigrant spoke about how his son was murdered for being black. Assembly members, such as Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, and Diane Harkey of Dana Point, said the law is needed to crack down on human trafficking and a modern epidemic of slavery.

Co-author Brian Jones argued that the bill upholds legal immigration and the assembled group chimed in about the importance of encouraging more immigrants who choose to pursue the American Dream the legal and proper way. They decried the lawlessness and increasing violence at the border, especially as Mexican drug lords smuggle immigrants into this country. Assemblyman Don Wagner of Irvine reminded people that there is no racism involved in the bill, which will come before the Assembly Judiciary Committee Tuesday. Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, the former Costa Mesa mayor, said that local officials can do their part also. When he was mayor, he authored a law that allowed the city to work with federal officials to check the immigration status of immigrants stopped for crimes. He turned the city into a Rule Of Law City as opposed to a Sanctuary City as a reminder that immigration laws are treated seriously in that Orange County locale.

The law has a zero chance of passage, of course. I certainly sympathize with concerns about the rule of law, which are particularly troublesome when one discusses the crimes committed by people who are living here in the shadows. I agree with their views about allowing more people to come here legally. But I don’t see any Republican efforts beyond rhetoric to actually make it easier for Mexican nationals to come here to work or to emigrate here. Any such calls to loosen up the border are viewed by conservative activists as the equivalent of amnesty. Talk of encouraging legal immigration is just that, talk.

The crime and human trafficking problems are serious and severe. But this is the result of a black market. Because it takes so long to legally come to America to work, desperate Mexican nationals violate the law. This enables the drug cartels and other criminal gangs to control the border. The problems the Republicans detail will be made worse by clamping down the border.

The legislation would impose tougher sanctions on employers, which only adds to the regulatory burden that Republicans often and rightfully complain about. Republicans also complain often and correctly about the private attorney general lawsuits that allow shameless attorneys to harass businesses by filing frivolous shakedown lawsuits. This bill would do the same thing by establishing “a process for persons to file complaints of violations of these provisions with the Attorney General or a district attorney.”

The bill certainly expands government powers. My main concern is summed up by a sign holder who was an official participant at the event, someone who was standing in the group surrounding the Assembly members: “I would be happy to show you my papers any time. Yes AB26.”

Is this right? Are self-styled supporters of freedom and the Constitution really willing and happy to show government agents their papers at any time?

American citizens of Latino heritage know that they will be the ones repeatedly asked to show their papers in any such scenario. This explains the opposition to it from so many people. Once again, we see Republicans who are advocating laws that are in direct conflict with their stated goals of promoting liberty.

APRIL 4, 2011

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  1. Ted
    Ted 5 April, 2011, 10:38

    Steve,

    The papers they are talking about are driver’s licenses and green cards. Law enforcement has the right to inquire of anyone’s immigration status in a lawful stop. That comes from Muehler v Mena, 2005, unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision, try to read the summary.

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