Reason Writers Around Town: Shikha Dalmia Addresses More Bogus Arguments by Arizona Restrictionists


In her previous Forbes column, Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia argued that Arizona's harsh immigration law is against the spirit of America. In her latest column, she argues that it is also against the U.S. Constitution. The law's defenders say that it can withstand constitutional scrutiny because it has been carefully modeled after federal immigration law. But that is as constitutionally presumptuous as Arizona sending its own state troops to help the federal government fight the Iraq war. As Dalmia writes:

One of the most controversial aspects of the amended law is that it makes it a state crime for immigrants—legal and illegal—to step out of their house without their papers. Defenders claim that there is nothing Gestapo-like about this provision because immigrants are already required by federal law to carry their papers. What's more, they note, this law won't mean that cops will simply be able to stop anyone on the street and demand proof of legality. Interestingly, they made the same claim about the original law even though it required police officers to make little more than eye contact before launching a full-blown inquiry into someone's immigration status.

The amended law limits such inquiries to instances when cops make a lawful stop, detention, or arrest in the course of enforcing some other law or local ordinance. But including local ordinances as grounds for an immigration inquiry opens all kinds of tantalizing harassment possibilities for officials like Joe Arpaio—the notorious but popular Arizona sheriff who has made it his personal mission to root out undocumented aliens from the state by launching crime sweeps in Latino communities on the flimsiest of pretexts.

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