By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Washington is continuing to play ping-pong with the immigration issue. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who needs at least the lion’s share of the votes to be cast by Nevada’s Hispanic community if he hopes to be re-elected this November, is trying to push a bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t commit to doing anything about immigration unless and until the Senate acts first. And President Barack Obama stands there, wagging a disapproving finger at anyone who tries to address the problem.
The president and Congress’s Democratic leaders have ignored the issue up to now. Suddenly, they have a renewed interest in it--because a new Arizona law gives them the chance to demagogue on it.
The law says “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency of this state ... where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person.”
They think, because this law--as I wrote yesterday--gives local law enforcement officials the power to detain suspected illegal immigrants they can drive a wedge between Hispanic voters and the GOP by conjuring up the idea it is some kind of near-fascism. But, as my friend Rich Lowry explains at National Review Online, there’s a lot of hyperbole going on.
Lowry points out that the Arizona law lays out two preconditions before local police can act. First, that there be “a lawful contact” and, second, that there be a “reasonable suspicion.” As he explains:
What this is likely to mean effectively is that if in the course of a traffic stop, a cop asks you for a driver's license, and you don't have one, and he asks you for other identification, and you have none, and he calls ICE and they have no record of you as a legal immigrant, you're in trouble. This is near-fascism?
It may not be that simple in its application--potential for abuse--but it is already a federal offense to be an alien and not carry papers proving legal status. Is what Arizona is now asking that much of a reach? As Lowry says, “The rest of us carry ID everywhere, and are asked for ID all the time. Arizona is only making what is already a federal offense a state offense.”