As someone who believes both in individual liberty as well as borders and national sovereignty, I approached Arizona’s much-denounced new immigration law with mixed feelings. I support the attrition through enforcement strategy of reducing illegal immigration but I don’t like government officials barking “papers, please” and I’ve opposed several restrictionist measures on civil libertarian grounds, including the Real ID Act and any national ID card.
But I think the sturm and drang over the Arizona law is misguided. Far from authorizing local police officers to pull Hispanics from crowds at random and demand to see proof of legal residency, the law requires a prior “legal contact” — that is, there needs to already be something going on, like an arrest or a traffic stop. The law specifically bans race and ethnicity as the sole grounds for a “reasonable suspicion” of illegal presence in the United States. Noncitizens have been legally required to carry proof of legal residence on their persons for 70 years.
As Byron York points out, this was actually a law that was carefully crafted to withstand both political objections and legal challenges. Rich Lowry has more on the hysterical reaction to Arizonans wanting some protection from federal non-enforcement of the laws safeguarding their borders.