Many of my more liberal friends profess to be outraged by the incipient racism behind the Arizona immigration law. Setting aside the question of whether the law actually promotes racial profiling (there are many other, better places to find good information on that question), whether such profiling is a public good is a different matter entirely. I don’t disagree that the idea of making law enforcement decisions solely on the basis of race is fraught with peril, if not outright unconstitutional. But consider the following scenarios and see how you might react:
- You are a tourist in Costa Rica. You paid several hundred dollars for a room and bus travel to several exotic locales while in country. Costa Rica has a lot of illegal immigration from Honduras, due to the high disparity in standards of living, employment, and political freedom between the countries. Costa Rican police have set up checkpoints all over the countryside, where they inspect the paperwork of those traveling the roads. When your bus arrives at a checkpoint, you realize you forgot your passport at the hotel. The policeman, realizing that the resort bus is full of tourist gringos, never gets on board and allows it to pass without checking anyone’s documentation. Should you, as a fair-minded liberal, be outraged that the driver of the car behind the bus (a Latino woman) was asked for her papers, and you were not arrested for failing to travel with yours?
- Your daughter has been raped. Based on her statements, a black man with what she believed was an African accent was the perpetrator. She didn’t see her attacker’s face. Responding to the APB, a policeman stops a man driving a Toyota with a Kenyan flag bumper sticker because he is driving 10 miles over the speed limit. During the traffic stop, the policeman realizes the driver has a foreign accent he doesn’t recognize. He asks for the man’s immigration paperwork, and he cannot produce it, saying he has been in the country for years. Asked if he is a citizen, the man says no. Lacking probable cause for a search on the basis of the rape, the policeman arrests the man for failing to carry his green card. Subsequent investigation of his car and home on the immigration charge lead the police to evidence that prove he committed the rape. Should you, as a fair-minded liberal, feel uncomfortable that your child’s rapist was detained and investigated on the basis of his immigration status (a question that was only raised because of a sticker on his car and his foreign accent), rather than on any evidence that he raped your daughter?
- There is a bomb in the airport. Security footage shows that a young woman in a pantsuit placed the bomb behind a trash can. You have been detained, along with everyone who was on Concourse C at the time the bomb was found. They are questioning everyone in alphabetical order. You are an 72-year-old Asian man named Wang with diabetes who needs to check his insulin level. You are prohibited from accessing your luggage until security has finished questioning everyone. Your wife, who was walking back from the bathroom on Concourse B at the time of the incident, has been waiting with your test kit outside the interview room for five hours. You are starting to feel lightheaded. You’ve asked for medical attention, and they are calling for it now. But as a fair-minded liberal, are you glad that your government is consistently applying the law by holding you for questioning?
- You just took a new job, and you have been randomly selected for an audit of your I-9 form. Although you presented a copy of your Social Security Card and birth certificate to your employer during orientation, you are now required to present them — along with five other forms of identification — to a federal agent two weeks after you start your job. You also have to provide the names of seven references who can vouch for your citizenship. A week later, you learn that one form of I.D. you presented was found to be inadmissible (the bureaucrat issuing the document spelled your middle name as “Jeffrey,” not “Jeffery,” although you’d never noticed before). You are expected to present a replacement form of I.D. within 24 hours to the federal agent. You aren’t sure where you’re going to get that, and it will require you to miss the day of work. Having been at your job less than 30 days, you don’t have any paid vacation. Your boss wonders why you’re being investigated by the federal government, but he begrudgingly offers unpaid time off to take care of it. Two of your friends you used as references call and ask why they were asked if they knew where you had been born (they didn’t know — was that a problem?) by a U.S. Marshal. You know that your great-grandparents arrived in this country in 1911 on a boat from Finland, and you’ve never left the country but once on a family vacation to Jamaica when you were 12. You get your backup I.D. to the Federal Building one hour before the office closes, and you return to a pile of extra work from your skeptical boss the next day. Are you, a fair-minded liberal, edified through this process that the Department of Homeland Security is wisely employing its resources to ensure that illegal immigration in this country is being curbed?