Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Will on Arizona's Law

George Will makes the following points in his defense of Arizona's exercise in xenophobia:
Although liberals are appalled by racial profiling, some seem to think vocational profiling (police officers are insensitive incompetents) is merely intellectual efficiency, as is state profiling (Arizonans are xenophobic).

Probably 30 percent of Arizona's residents are Hispanic. Arizona police officers, like officers everywhere, have enough to do without being required to seek arrests by violating settled law with random stops of people who speak Spanish. In the practice of the complex and demanding craft of policing, good officers -- the vast majority -- routinely make nuanced judgments about when there is probable cause for acting on reasonable suspicions of illegality.

Arizona's law might give the nation information about whether judicious enforcement discourages illegality. If so, it is a worthwhile experiment in federalism.

Non-Hispanic Arizonans of all sorts live congenially with all sorts of persons of Hispanic descent. These include some whose ancestors got to Arizona before statehood -- some even before it was a territory. They were in America before most Americans' ancestors arrived. Arizonans should not be judged disdainfully and from a distance by people whose closest contacts with Hispanics are with fine men and women who trim their lawns and put plates in front of them at restaurants, not with illegal immigrants passing through their back yards at 3 a.m.
Interesting take, with interesting serving as a euphemism for reprehensible. Interestingly, the first bolded section seems to indicate that conservatives are not appalled by racial profiling. As to his charge of hypocrisy, I don't think anyone is saying that all Arizonans are xenophobic, but that the law certainly is in that it would seem to require treating accented people differently than native English speakers, and the burden of proof is on the people who support the law to demonstrate that they are not. Furthermore, with regard to the final section, what in God's name does one's interaction with Hispanics have to do with one's opinion of the law? I have no interaction with Georgians, but the accusations of war crimes during the Russian invasion were nonetheless unsettling. This law is objectionable regardless of whether or not you spend a lot of time with Latin people.

Lastly, you can dress this discussion up a million different ways, and defend it by attacking the federal government or arguing that it is an exercise in federalism, but plainly this is a law that very plausibly could lead to a law-abiding legal immigrant or even a naturalized American citizen having a chance encounter with a police officer and getting tossed in jail. To support this law is support that eventuality.

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