Strange Days

Strange Days:

In a government that prides itself on its democratic roots, we've entered some strange days. Arizona passes a law that seventy percent of its citizens support, only to draw an immediate rebuke from the President of the United States.

The rebuke is understandable. This law sounds terrible: giving police the ability to stop people for no reason at all and demand they produce papers and identification is not something I support. I've never liked the anti-DUI checkpoints at which drivers are stopped and identification demanded, for example. I have my identification, of course, and it's merely a momentary irritation; and preventing DUI is a perfectly reasonable public policy goal that protects both lives and property.

Is immigration in Arizona a public policy problem at the same level as DUI? That is, does the threat to life or property rise to anything like the same level? It's hard to say. I've looked around this morning to try and get a sense of why there is such a high level of support for this law, but information is not easy to find. Missing from the coverage of this law in Arizona is any sense of why so many of her citizens feel that this is also a public policy goal that merits such intrusive measures. Is it because the offenses are so numerous and regular that they have ceased to be newsworthy?

The closest thing I can find is in this story, which also doesn't provide numbers, but says that there are "epidemic" spikes in "home invasion and kidnapping" associated with cross-border drug gangs; hundreds of people a year dying in the wilderness areas; and "numerous" police officers having been killed by illegal border crossers. That sounds like a public policy problem of at least the DUI level, does it not?

So what is the Federal government intending to do to answer the concerns of the citizens? This same President, with a unified Congress, just passed a health care law that was opposed by a majority. In February, Rassmussen found that only 21% said the US government has the consent of the governed. This month, Pew found that nearly eighty percent don't trust the government. The reason these citizens are feeling so negatively is that the government's interests are its own interests -- it doesn't seem to be tethered to what the people want (nor to its own Constitutional limits; but we'll leave that for the moment). Will the Federal government act in the interest of the people of Arizona, or in the political interest of the Democratic party at the national level? To ask the question is to answer it.

If there's a better way of dealing with these problems, fine: I don't like the idea of police stopping people and demanding papers either. The concerns of the 30% of citizens opposed to the new law also deserve consideration. Yet it won't do to simply wave your hand at Arizona and say, "Bad!" The fact that a supermajority of its citizens are ready to support such strong measures should be a warning that we need to take serious and careful action to solve the problem that is driving them.

No comments: