Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Thoughts on Arizona's New Law

Is it just me or does Arizona's new immigration law appear to be completely at odds with what America truly stands for. For those that don't already know, this new legislation essentially gives law enforcement officers the authority to arrest people if it is believed they’re in the country illegally. So if you're strolling down the highway and just happen to bear the resemblance of someone that might have recently hopped the fence and is not in possession of proper ID, then you might have some 'splaining to do' as the great Desi Arnaz used to say on I Love Lucy. All jokes aside, many people have not been shy in voicing their concerns about this new measure. On one end of the spectrum, there are those that wholeheartedly reject it saying that the measure is patently racist and will lead to blatant profiling. On the other hand, there are those that staunchly advocate the law because they believe its desperately needed to prevent undocumented workers from taking all the jobs and other resources away from people who are here legally. However, both sides of this debate have truly missed the mark because they both oversimplify the matter. Quite frankly, we can't just label an individual a garden-variety bigot simply because he or she thinks stricter immigration laws are needed, in much the same way we shouldn't stigmatize a person for speaking out against profiling by calling them some run-of-the-mill liberal tree-hugger.

We must remember that with any explosive issue like immigration reform, there is going to be heated debate. No one is naive enough to honestly expect all of the parties involved to forge a consensus overnight and start singing in unison Kumbaya My Lord. In the real world, the democratic process does not work like this. In fact, the process can be quite messy and takes considerable time. However, in this case the new law in Ariziona does not strike me as the product of tough, thoughtful choices but rather the result of rash decisions and hasty thinking. Indeed, this law has brought to light the hard-to-swallow truth that no one wants to acknowledge, namely that the era of rational discussion and vigorous debate has degenerated into a thoroughly nasty shouting match. It seems as though the debate has gotten so thoroughly polarized that no one is willing to listen to each other any more. The voice and viewpoints of zealots and extremists alike are gaining leverage all the while portraying themselves as rational voices of the mainstream (Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh being two glaring examples). Nevertheless, our country has not always been this way. We have a long and rich history of healthy and robust dialogue. Why, you might ask, have so many people embraced these divisive and hyper-partisan visions and perspectives? Sadly, in my humble opinion, it is because the media inundates us with this stuff 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The media knows all-too-well that the sentimental and sensational sells and keeps people tuned in. Fair and balanced discussion aren't as trendy or exciting as they used to be and hence their disappearance from mainstream journalism. Alas, what the media will do for a buck. However, we must not become so easily influenced by what the media has to offer. We must have the courage to think for ourselves and state without reservation the unpleasant reality that the Arizona law will not, in the end, solve or alleviate the severity of this illegal immigration problem. Now don't get me wrong, something is desperately needed to reform immigration law in this country. Maybe greater governmental enforcement. Or perhaps what we need is private industry becoming more thoughtful about abiding by federal regulations instead of trying to reduce their costs by hiring undocumented workers under the table. Both these things, among many others, should be put on the table and rationally discussed. However, Arizona's new law doesn't seem to weigh the costs and benefits of taking the steps it has. To me, this law will only flare up even greater division in a already fragmented country. Just a thought....

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