5.11.2010

On Arizona's New Immigration Law


Amidst our information-deluged lives, the 24-hour media cycle, the never-off campaign cycle, R's and D's both drawing their lines in the sand in the run-up to another primary and general election, and continued pain in our job markets, Arizona's immigration law was bound to set off fireworks on both sides of the argument. At a thin-slice level, it makes for charged responses: jingoism, racial profiling, this is what's wrong with Democrats/Republicans/Americans/illegals.

The public sector is a tough place to work. Everything is under a magnifying glass, everything get's blown out of proportion, perception is reality, and good policy can get lost if the other side can claim victory in the sound bite war.

But you know? That scrutiny, that back-and-forth, that ardent dialogue, is what makes our political system great. Politics is, almost inherently, corrupting. Whether it draws a certain type of person or makes people that way, politics demands checks and balances, because it involves things, like exercising power over others or spending other peoples' money or making blanket policies about certain groups and situations, that we need careful and public oversight over.

I don't know what is the way forward for immigration policy in America. I certainly don't know what makes sense for Arizona and its police, governments, citizens, and economy. I'm sympathetic to Marginal Revolution commenter Josh, who writes, "I'm amused by watching the similarities in reaction to this law and the new Belgium burqa ban. It amazes me how quickly distant opponents are to throw out accusations of racism, intolerance, and hypocrisy when they share none of the experiences of those living in those places. I'm not automatically defending them, but if you have not lived in that area and have not experienced enough of what they have experienced to at least truly understand the fear that drives these laws, you should not be making such blanket and arrogant assertions." And I'm sympathetic to those who have made such opposing assertions, because even perception isn't reality, on another level, perception is reality, and so lawmakers must be mindful, in the protection of a law-abiding society, that this nation is great because of and not in spite of its inclusivity and tolerance and multi-culturalism.

Politics in America is a delicate dance, between Democrats and Republicans, between a citizenry that should remain informed but that also elects representatives who can devote themselves full-time to the task of legislation and execution, and between the rights of some versus the needs of others. Even with emotionally charged commentary, malinformed sound bites, and dubious policy, give me this country over any other.

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