David Frum on the Arizona law: An alternative view

Close-up from a mural painting in San Diego's Chicano Park. A Latino male's face is shown. There is anger in his eyes. His hat bears the name of Aztlán, a figurative term used by the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s to indicate the lands of Northern Mexico taken by the United States. That would include California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Mural painting in San Diego's Chicano Park. Some people are willing to resort to violence over the new Arizona law on immigration. (Photo: Embargo Wells Fargo)

Noted Canadian-American journalist and former George W. Bush economic speechwriter David Frum thinks people should stop griping over the Arizona law and start thinking about what’s at stake. Recently on his blog Frum Forum, he suggested that the cries of “racism and Nazi-style tactics” over the Arizona immigration law may work just fine as rabid sound bites for the media and the uninformed to throw around with righteous indignation. However, they fail to address that while Arizona’s answer to illegal immigration is “not perfect,” it is “not unreasonable, either,” says Frum. The Arizona law “should jerk the national conscience to attention.”

Arizona law deters litter, property damage, violence

When thinking about the Arizona law, consider this: Life in America’s southern borderlands – specifically the southern-most areas of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas – has been affected negatively by the unchecked flow of illegal immigrants. Frum makes the mistake of claiming that the San Diego/Tijuana corridor is “effectively fenced,” which it is not, but his error only serves to underscore his main points more deeply. While fencing and Border Patrol stations do exist, there are numerous ways immigrants can illegally enter America through underground storm drains that are not effectively guarded.

Admittedly, not all illegal immigrants are outwardly dangerous, but some do traffic in various forms of contraband, including drugs and human slaves. As was the case with southern Arizona rancher Rob Krentz, the dangerous crowd among illegal entrants will murder if it means they can get in and loot America. Even those who were not criminals before entering the U.S. illegally contribute mightily to litter and property damage. Legal residents often need a money lender to afford repairs. That doesn’t even take into account the abuse of resources funded by American taxpayers: overstuffed hospitals, accidents with uninsured cars and the destruction of natural habitats with makeshift migrant camps, to name a few things.

Immigration and failing public schools

Young children of illegal migrant families likely aren’t the ones who choose to take advantage of America’s lax enforcement for financial gain. However, when the Supreme Court handed down a 1982 decision that enabled such children of illegal immigrants to attend public school on the taxpayers’ dime, the court went too far, asserts Frum. The evidence is rampant: overstretched resources failing to accommodate the massive number of students and classrooms where teachers take extra time to ensure no child who can’t speak English is left behind. Frum rightly points out that it’s no wonder that American children in public schools in the borderlands aren’t receiving quality educations.

Arizona estimates they have at least 600,000 illegal immigrants

Thus, rounding them all up and deporting them would be a near impossibility. However, Frum believes that the new Arizona law will still act as a deterrent to stop the manic flow of people swimming toward a watered-down amnesty born from political fear of alienating registered Latino voters. It can easily be argued that politics is about getting re-elected first by overpromising; making tough decisions to help the people is secondary. Thus, real immigration reform has been a back-burner topic. But Arizona has actually shown some guts by forcing a complacent federal government to formulate a response.

But wait! Doesn’t the Arizona law give police the right to pull over anyone they please?

Not exactly, says Frum. Similar to the way New York police had to handle the illegal gun laws of the 1990s, police in Arizona will not be able to stop people on mere suspicion. The Arizona law does give police the right to ask someone if they can produce proof of legal residence if that person has already been stopped due to another offense or infraction. If an illegal immigrant is found through such a scenario, Arizona law now gives police the power to detain them. While this won’t send 600,000 illegal immigrants packing for Mexico, the threat of being caught could cut down on drunk driving and uninsured motorists (both of which sources indicate are serious problems in Arizona, and connected largely – but not exclusively – to illegal immigrant activity).

The threat of enforcement could make a big difference and prove to the southwest what works and what doesn’t. Time will tell if enforcement is effective or an invitation to xenophobia.

Related Video (interview with Arizona police chief):

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