Writer takes issue with previous immigration article

Letter to the Editor

Last week Hi-Line editor Alex Entz penned an article detailing his thoughts on Arizona’s recent immigration controversy, while in the process exposing his own xenophobic tendencies and a rash ignorance of the American legal system. “Arizona Upholds Legal System,” the title of Entz’s article, may well have been the largest laundry-list of lies and misrepresentation that I have seen the Hi-Line ever publish in three years as a CFHS student.

The law, passed last month by Arizona’s legislature and signed by Governor Jan Brewer, gives police the authority to ask anyone for documents proving their citizenship based entirely on the officer’s suspicion that they are illegal immigrants. Legal challenges to the law are expected from the Department of Justice and the ACLU due to the questionable constitutionality of the bill and apparent promotion of racial profiling, amongst other petty concerns Entz regards as “liberal blathering.”

Entz first states that, by virtue of their status as illegal immigrants, suspects are not entitled to the same protections our Constitution provides to citizens. This is demonstrably false. The 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection regardless of race, color or nationality; furthermore, the Supreme Court has illustrated unequivocally for over a century that this means an illegal alien is entitled to the same rights as a citizen. I quote the Supreme Court in the case of Plyler v Doe in 1982: “The illegal aliens who are plaintiffs in these cases challenging the statute may claim the benefit of the Equal Protection Clause … Whatever his status under the immigration laws, an alien is a ‘person’ in any ordinary sense of that term …”

The next argument that Entz presented was that “illegal immigrants represent an untraceable criminal threat.” Perhaps fearing that he had not done enough to convince the reader of this, only a few paragraphs later he refers to them as “violent illegal immigrant criminals.” The problem with this argument is that the facts simply don’t corroborate with his incendiary rhetoric. El Paso, Texas, for example, is situated right across the Rio Grande River from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, sometimes called (for good reason) the most dangerous city in the Western Hemisphere. El Paso has exorbitantly high levels of illegal immigrants and poverty, and … a murder rate that is one-fifth of that which Milwaukee, Wis., boasts. El Paso, quite possibly the largest hotbed of illegal immigration in America, has half the violent crime and half the property crime per capita of the national average. This is not endemic to El Paso; Tucson, Ariz., often cited as another nest of immigration, can also rightfully claim to be several times safer than Milwaukee. According to the Department of Justice, Arizona’s violent crime is at a four-decade low and their property crime at it’s lowest level since 1966. This is the sort of common sense that the facts do corroborate; why would an illegal immigrant risk deportation with senseless violence?

Entz closes his article by challenging the reader to find where it’s “illegal to uphold the law that’s already on the books.” Luckily for him, there’s three grounds under which this law is clearly unconstitutional. The first is the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. Popularly known by giving federal legislation priority over state law, the clause also gives the federal government exclusive power to deal with other countries … including in immigration law. The city of Dallas tried passing laws to crack down on illegal immigrants in 2008, only to be ruled unconstitutional by US District Judge Jane Boyle. In her decision, Boyle wrote “Ordinance 2952 is a regulation of immigration and is preempted by the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution because the authority to regulate immigration is exclusively a federal power.”

Certainly the precedent outlined above is enough reason for the law to be ruled unconstitutional, but it isn’t the only reason. The bill’s verbiage dictates that a police officer is allowed to ask for papers if there is “reasonable suspicion” that a person is an illegal immigrant. What, exactly, constitutes reasonable suspicion? Thankfully, the court case Terry v. Ohio (1967) states that reasonable suspicion can be established only with “specific and articulable facts,” that is, any officer in the same circumstance should make the same decision because there is an objective standard for it rather than “just a hunch.” Unfortunately, “just a hunch” is all the bill has to rely on. There is no objective standard for what constitutes “reasonable suspicion” when determining if someone is an illegal immigrant; unless we’re basing it upon color or nationality, which as we established above is a violation of the 14th Amendment.

What is the Governor of Arizona’s opinion? “We have to trust our law enforcement,” Gov. Jan Brewer said. Sorry, Jan, that’s not constitutional, either. As Justice Potter Stewart wrote in his concurrent decision on Beck v. Ohio (1964) , “Good faith on the part of the arresting officer is not enough. If subjective good faith alone were the test, the protections of the Fourth Amendment would evaporate, and the people would be secure in their persons … only in the discretion of police.”

Gov. Brewer’s own party appears uncomfortable with the bill’s passing, as well; Karl Rove, former chief strategist of President Bush, conceded that the law had “constitutional problems.” Lindsey Graham, South Carolina’s outspoken and staunchly conservative senator, also remarked that “they’ll have a hard time upholding this law.” Even Jeb Bush, brother of the former President and former Republican governor of Florida, made vocal his opposition to the bill, noting the issues with civil liberties it obviously presents.
Illegal immigration is a serious problem to our country — that much everyone can agree on. Dealing with the problem by propagating racism and tearing the civil liberties afforded by our Constitution to shreds in the process, however, is politically irresponsible and morally reprehensible.

—Michael Droste,

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