Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bloomberg the Bracero

In yesterday's NY Daily News, Mayor Bloomberg-clearly no border collie-inveighed against the Arizona immigration law; and managed to mangle what the law actually says: "A new Arizona law requiring local police officers to stop anyone they might reasonably suspect of being here illegally may produce unintended consequences that could hurt not only Arizona, but all of America."

But wait, that's not what the law says-as Byron York points out: "The chattering class is aghast at Arizona's new immigration law. "Harkens back to apartheid," says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Cynthia Tucker. "Shameful," says the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne. "Terrible…an invitation to abuse," says the New York Times' David Brooks.For his part, President Obama calls the law "misguided" and says it "threaten[s] to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans." Obama has ordered the Justice Department to "closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation." Has anyone actually read the law? Contrary to the talk, it is a reasonable, limited, carefully-crafted measure designed to help law enforcement deal with a serious problem in Arizona. Its authors anticipated criticism and went to great lengths to make sure it is constitutional and will hold up in court. It is the criticism of the law that is over the top, not the law itself."

And what does the mayor feel is so dangerous in a measure that is supported by around 70% of the American people? Here's his concern: "Already, stories are appearing about foreign travelers crossing Arizona off their vacation lists. Who wants to visit the Grand Canyon if you could end up getting hassled by the police - or arrested - if you leave your passport at the hotel? Foreign business leaders may also think twice about visiting or investing in Arizona."

Well at least the mayor left out all of the Nazi references that have burnt up the INTERNET over the last few days. The fact is that the folks are getting tired of a situation that is bankrupting border states that are forced to cope with hundreds of thousands of illegals-or undocumented workers. And no one will be stopped for just hanging out-as the law clearly states. But even more significantly, it needs to be pointed out that the newly enacted health care law mandates that everyone needs to prove their citizenship in order to be able to receive health care-shades of Adolf Hitler!

But just when we thought that Bloomberg was being fairly reasonable, Daily Politics reports the following from the normally unflappable mayor: "This country is committing national suicide. We just passed a health care bill to give coverage to millions of people, tens of millions of people and we don’t have doctors and we’re not allowing people who want to come here and be doctors to come here. This is just craziness. People are developing new drugs in India, rather than here. They’re going to win the next Nobel prize in China or in Europe, not here..."

So, that's what's happening in Arizona, a xenophobic attack on immigrant doctors. Who knew? Shows what happens when the mayor speaks off the cuff. The mayor's confused stance id underscored by the mixed message in yesterday's Op-Ed: "Basic free market economics tells us we need more legal immigrants - immigrants who will start new businesses and help build the foundation for future economic growth. Laws that have the potential to hassle them could prove devastating to our economy. From a practical point of view, police officers have no rational way of knowing in advance who is a citizen, or a tourist, or a business traveler, or a legal permanent resident, or a foreign student, or a temporary worker - and who is not. And this could lead immigrants who own businesses to pack up and leave and take their companies' jobs with them."

In the first segment quoted above, Bloomberg is on solid ground-and no one in Arizona who supports the legal crackdown would argue with him on this point. But then-looking to appeal to all sides of the debate, Bloomberg goes off in a flight of fancy that has the characteristic of a psychotic break. Let me repeat. No one will be stopped arbitrarily-unless it is in violation of the stated premises of the law. And to assume otherwise is to impugn the professionalism of the police in Arizona.

As York points out: "Critics have focused on the term "reasonable suspicion" to suggest that the law would give police the power to pick anyone out of a crowd for any reason and force them to prove they are in the U.S. legally. Some foresee mass civil rights violations targeting Hispanics. What fewer people have noticed is the phrase "lawful contact," which defines what must be going on before police even think about checking immigration status. "That means the officer is already engaged in some detention of an individual because he's violated some other law," says Kris Kobach, a University of Missouri Kansas City Law School professor who helped draft the measure. "The most likely context where this law would come into play is a traffic stop."

Now all of us are forced to show legal identification numerous times in our everyday lives-try getting in to 250 Broadway to see a council member without your driver's license. It is certainly inconvenient, but nevertheless necessary in an age of terrorism. So why all of the hyperventilation? As York reminds us: "Is having to produce a driver's license too burdensome? These days, natural-born U.S. citizens, and everybody else, too, are required to show a driver's license to get on an airplane, to check into a hotel, even to purchase some over-the-counter allergy medicines. If it's a burden, it's a burden on everyone. Still, critics worry the law would force some people to carry their papers, just like in an old movie. The fact is, since the 1940s, federal law has required non-citizens in this country to carry, on their person, the documentation proving they are here legally -- green card, work visa, etc. That hasn't changed."

But what has changed is the utter lack of enforcement of our existing immigration laws-the underlying rationale for the Arizona measure. So it appears that as far as Mike Bloomberg is concerned he is simply a Pander Bear. And the demonstrating opponents of the law who threw bottles at police, well, they did more in one weekend to erode civility than a whole year of Tea Parties. Talk about language having consequences. We can't wait for Bill Clinton to weigh in on this incivility-and the dangers it portends.

We have a serious immigration problem in this country-but it will not be properly addressed through hyperbolic visions of a fascist future. Every country has the right to control its borders. It appears, however, that there are many opponents of the Arizona law who believe no such thing. They should learn from the poll bounce that Governor Brewer received from her signing of the new law. People are not only fed up with porous borders; but they've had it up to here with phony attacks that demonize other Americans for racist motives that are not in evidence. Bloomberg's editorial, by utilizing over wrought language, aids and abets this despicable trend.