Arizona Immigration Law: Politics Over Policy

( – promoted by Robert Cruickshank)

Cross-posted on Daily Kos and Huffington Post.

Never let bad policy get in the way of good politics.  That’s the cynical motto of the growing class of political copycats bent on replicating Arizona’s controversial new immigration law in other states, including California.

     Arizona’s law, SB 1070, requires local police to act as federal immigration agents.  Now police officers in Arizona can detain someone if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that she’s an illegal immigrant.  

     Despite a broad, national backlash, the urge to score political points on the fringe seems irresistible.  Last week, a California Assembly candidate promised to introduce an Arizona-style immigration law if he’s elected.  And in ten more states–Georgia, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Ohio, Missouri, South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, and Maryland–politicians looking for a boost have called for laws that would mirror Arizona’s law.

     California cannot afford an Arizona-style immigration law.  It is bad policy and the worst kind of politics.   (More in the extended entry.)

Protecting public safety was supposedly a main justification for Arizona’s law.  As a career prosecutor for nearly two decades, I can tell you that transforming our local police officers into immigration agents will seriously harm our crime-fighting efforts.  We have the nation’s largest population of immigrants, with nearly 10 million California residents born abroad.  If they don’t report crimes, for fear of being interrogated about their immigration status, crimes will go unsolved and criminals will walk free among us.  I’ve personally prosecuted hundreds of serious and violent crimes–robberies, murders, and rapes–where the case depended on an immigrant who was scared to come forward, but, because they did, we got a conviction.  

We need to encourage, not discourage, people to report violent crimes.  In every community, there are predators who literally stalk immigrants precisely because they count on them to “keep quiet” if they’re victimized.  In domestic violence cases, abusers routinely threaten their spouses that they’ll “turn them over to immigration” if they report the abuse.  Other criminals rob their neighbors, scam people out of their homes, and sexually abuse children, counting on the fear of police to keep victims from reporting the crimes.  Turning police officers into immigration agents will only push them further into the shadows and make them reliably easy victims for criminals.  

     But, of course, the predators don’t stop there.  The same people who victimize immigrants quickly turn their attention to other victims, as well — citizens, bystanders, and others.  Ultimately, then, it is our community that wins when people report crime, and ours that loses when they don’t.  

     We also can’t afford to divert scarce local law enforcement resources to enforcing federal immigration laws. Law enforcement budgets have been cut to the bone across California; many cities are laying-off police officers, firefighters, and prosecutors.  We need to focus every resource on fighting violent crimes.  We don’t have extra officers–or local tax dollars–available to moonlight as immigration patrol, which is a federal responsibility.  

     There’s no doubt that the federal government needs to pass meaningful immigration reform and that we have a serious illegal immigration problem in California, but “politics now, think later” measures like SB 1070 aren’t the solution.    

Kamala Harris is the District Attorney of San Francisco, and a candidate for Attorney General of the California.  For more information, see

5 thoughts on “Arizona Immigration Law: Politics Over Policy”

  1. Don’t you think a successful economic boycott will make the copycats think twice about imitating AZ?  I’d like to see MLB pull the 2011 All-Star game out of Phoenix right now, for example.

    Economic boycotts can change/constrain elites’ behavior and confine the insanity to one state if they are implemented quickly and surgically.  Also, loudly!

  2. Deporting illegals will have benefits.  Chief aming these is that unemployment will disappear overnight.  That is particularly true in regard to the entry level service, office and factory jobs in which illegals work.  That will have an immediate positive benefit for those seeking entry level jobs, particularly the young, African American, White and Hispanic Americans.  In turn, that will reduce crime by the young and the cost of investigation, prosecution and incarceration.   There will be similar public spending benefits all around, especially in our schools.  Robert, you really must look at the whole picture and be less responsive to emotional/political appeals.  Inconvenience is an inadequate justification for failing to enforce the laws.  I carry around a drivers license, proof of insurance, a library card and other forms of ID for particular purposes.  And if I need to enroll in Caljobs, I need to supply proof of citizenship right here in California. And if I am in the vicinity of a crime, I am questioned. It is an insignificant price to pay.  

  3.  MLB ultimately do just that, it took the NFL taking away the Superbowl for them to pass MLK day.

    As its been said, this is par for the course in Az. I don’t know what’s in the water or sun stroke. Then again outside of Phx/Tempe the whole state is fairly rural.

    Immigration in Arizona is seen as a gateway and only some have choose to stay closer to Mexico, most have gone further into the country.

    But two key points that are never mentioned with any kind of immigration debate currently.

    1) NAFTA

    2) Drug Prohibition

    Countries with legalized or decriminalized drugs don’t have our problems ours are acute…


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