Uncommon Sense

May 19, 2010

Chasing Arizona’s Tail

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 2:41 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I am a scientist. As part of my training it was drummed into me that it was really, really important to understand “the problem,” “the question,” before trying to answer it, because if you got the question wrong, you could waste a great deal of time and effort trying to answer it, and even if you did it wouldn’t be satisfying because it isn’t the answer that is needed.

Which brings us to Arizona.

The current brouhaha in Arizona is over their “immigration” problem. The state legislature passed a law requiring law enforcement officers to ask anyone “looking” like they might be in the country illegally for identification papers. This “papers, please” law has created a firestorm of controversy. Some say it leads to racial profiling. Some say it is a law enforcement nightmare. But has anyone challenged the reasoning of the sponsoring politicians? Remember we are talking about politicians here, not people trained to think well.

The stated rationale is that Arizona is suffering from a perfect storm of violence and crime from an unprecedented wave of illegal immigrants streaming over the Arizona-Mexico border. And since the Federal government has failed to act, Arizona was forced to do so.

So, is there any evidence to back up this argument? For example, what are the crime statistics?

Well, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the violent crime rate in Arizona was lower in 2006, 2007, and 2008 (the most recent years from which data are available) than any year since 1983. The property crime rate in Arizona was lower in 2006, 2007, and 2008 than any year since 1968.

A border county sheriff stated that the number of arrests of illegals is way down from ten years ago and that the standing procedure has been to turn those people over to the Border Patrol who then deports them right back across the border. (Unfortunately, the federal system is considerably backed up at present and many illegals are given temporary work permits and driver’s licenses until they can have their deportation hearing.) The new Arizona law requires these people be locked up in state run jails, being housed and fed at the citizen’s expense, while they work their way through the AZ judicial system. Sounds a lot more expensive to me. And law enforcement officers say the are afraid that the illegals, who up until now have been fairly docile when caught, will react differently if they know they are going to jail and/or prison, which will make law enforcement’s job much tougher. That doesn’t sound good, either.

Well, that kind of blows a hole in the “need” argument.

So, why was Arizona’s state legislators so worked up about a problem that was slowly getting better?

The answer is simply fear. There has been a great deal of drug-related crime violence just across the border and it has been leaking into the U.S. But still the statistics are what they are. The fear that is most threatening is the fear in the minds of these people. It is being fanned to white heat by the conservative fear mongering media. People who are afraid can be controlled and it doesn’t matter is the fear is real or imagined. There are real problems but the problems these conservative “commentors” are imagining are not the real problems.

Spending a lot of time and energy trying to solve a problem that isn’t real is a tremendous waste of time and effort and spiritual energy, that is such “problems” sap our spirits, leading us to think we are inundated with problems, that we are making no progress, when in fact things are quite different from what we were lead to believe.

And, we have enough real problems, thank you, and we shouldn’t we wasting time on Arizona’s stupid law. How about dealing with the real immigration problem? How about offering amnesty to all of the current illegals (with the appropriate hoops for them to jump through to achieve legal resident’s status) while simultaneously announcing that this is the last time such an amnesty will be offered . . . ever! To reduce the flow of people across the border, all we need do is require people to prove citizenship (or legal resident status) when they get a job and we need enforcement with severe penalties on employers who hire people without such proofs. If there are no jobs, people will not come. The reason they come now is the same reason drugs flow fairly freely across the same border—demand.

Why do we just swallow whole the rationales and claims of people making such divisive claims? Why don’t we check the facts first and get the problem right before we start “solving” it.

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