Commentary Magazine


Topic: law enforcement officers

Race Profiling in Immigration Enforcement

In several important posts, Roger Clegg, who heads the Center for Equal Opportunity, lays out the case (or one of them) against the Arizona immigration law. Comparing the use of race in admissions with immigration-enforcement profiling, he writes:

In both instances, the government is treating people differently because of skin color or what country someone (or someone’s ancestors) came from. Constitutional problems aside — and they are considerable — in an increasingly multiethnic and multiracial society, it is untenable to have a regime that sorts people by race and ethnicity, and treats some better and others worse on that basis. … I have also written that an exception should be made in the terrorism context: Law-enforcement officials are entitled to be cut some slack when they are trying to stop mass murder and win wars. But I have stood by my earlier position that the costs of official racial discrimination are not justified just because the police may think it gives them an edge in fighting street crime.

And it is certainly not justified when the target is suspected not of mass murder, not of dealing drugs, but of nothing more than coming to this country (yes, illegally) to find work and a better way of life for himself and his family.

In short, even if it is constitutional, it is bad policy to use race (or extend such latitude to law-enforcement officers) in matters that don’t involve life and death. Clegg notes that the law was actually amended so that, “on its face at least, it bans racial profiling.” But in practice, there is real concern that race will be the overwhelming factor on which the police rely to identify, stop, and check for proof of citizenship.

To be honest, part of this debate turns on how serious a problem you consider illegal immigration to be. Clegg continues, distinguishing routine immigration enforcement from the war on Islamic jihadists:

The problem of illegal immigration from Mexico is not really that kind of enterprise. It’s troublesome to say the police can identify a Mexican (or Italian, etc.) by appearance, and I’m uneasy letting the government define a problem in narrowly racial terms and then claim that it is entitled to consider race in combating it. This is like a police department saying that it is concerned about black drug dealers (they are the ones selling the drugs in its jurisdiction), and so it will target blacks. But most importantly, all this really goes again to the permissibility of considering race as a matter of law, and doesn’t answer my concerns about the divisiveness of this sort of discrimination as a matter of policy.

Clegg, who is a fearless opponent of racial preferences and quotas, sounds an important warning. Conservatives who chastise liberals for reliance on race to achieve their desired social ends (a more inclusive society, narrowing gaps between rich and poor) should be very wary of  supporting race for ends conservatives favor. Opposition to the Arizona law both on this basis and on preemption grounds isn’t, frankly, the politically popular position, as poll after poll has shown. Still, it’s a principled one for those who want to maintain the concept that only in the most dire circumstances should the state classify citizens by race. For those who claim that illegal immigration is just such a problem, I can only respectfully disagree. We have real life-and-death enemies, and the vast number of illegal immigrants don’t fall into that category.

In several important posts, Roger Clegg, who heads the Center for Equal Opportunity, lays out the case (or one of them) against the Arizona immigration law. Comparing the use of race in admissions with immigration-enforcement profiling, he writes:

In both instances, the government is treating people differently because of skin color or what country someone (or someone’s ancestors) came from. Constitutional problems aside — and they are considerable — in an increasingly multiethnic and multiracial society, it is untenable to have a regime that sorts people by race and ethnicity, and treats some better and others worse on that basis. … I have also written that an exception should be made in the terrorism context: Law-enforcement officials are entitled to be cut some slack when they are trying to stop mass murder and win wars. But I have stood by my earlier position that the costs of official racial discrimination are not justified just because the police may think it gives them an edge in fighting street crime.

And it is certainly not justified when the target is suspected not of mass murder, not of dealing drugs, but of nothing more than coming to this country (yes, illegally) to find work and a better way of life for himself and his family.

In short, even if it is constitutional, it is bad policy to use race (or extend such latitude to law-enforcement officers) in matters that don’t involve life and death. Clegg notes that the law was actually amended so that, “on its face at least, it bans racial profiling.” But in practice, there is real concern that race will be the overwhelming factor on which the police rely to identify, stop, and check for proof of citizenship.

To be honest, part of this debate turns on how serious a problem you consider illegal immigration to be. Clegg continues, distinguishing routine immigration enforcement from the war on Islamic jihadists:

The problem of illegal immigration from Mexico is not really that kind of enterprise. It’s troublesome to say the police can identify a Mexican (or Italian, etc.) by appearance, and I’m uneasy letting the government define a problem in narrowly racial terms and then claim that it is entitled to consider race in combating it. This is like a police department saying that it is concerned about black drug dealers (they are the ones selling the drugs in its jurisdiction), and so it will target blacks. But most importantly, all this really goes again to the permissibility of considering race as a matter of law, and doesn’t answer my concerns about the divisiveness of this sort of discrimination as a matter of policy.

Clegg, who is a fearless opponent of racial preferences and quotas, sounds an important warning. Conservatives who chastise liberals for reliance on race to achieve their desired social ends (a more inclusive society, narrowing gaps between rich and poor) should be very wary of  supporting race for ends conservatives favor. Opposition to the Arizona law both on this basis and on preemption grounds isn’t, frankly, the politically popular position, as poll after poll has shown. Still, it’s a principled one for those who want to maintain the concept that only in the most dire circumstances should the state classify citizens by race. For those who claim that illegal immigration is just such a problem, I can only respectfully disagree. We have real life-and-death enemies, and the vast number of illegal immigrants don’t fall into that category.

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RE: RE: Grandstanding on Immigration

Well, one politician who’s not playing to the crowd on the Arizona immigration law is Marco Rubio. At the risk of incurring the ire of his base, he’s come out with a conservative critique of the bill:

Our legal immigration system must continue to welcome those who seek to embrace America’s blessings and abide by the legal and orderly system that is in place. The American people have every right to expect the federal government to secure our borders and prevent illegal immigration. It has become all too easy for some in Washington to ignore the desperation and urgency of those like the citizens of Arizona who are disproportionately wrestling with this problem as well as the violence, drug trafficking and lawlessness that spills over from across the border.

States certainly have the right to enact policies to protect their citizens, but Arizona’s policy shows the difficulty and limitations of states trying to act piecemeal to solve what is a serious federal problem. From what I have read in news reports, I do have concerns about this legislation. While I don’t believe Arizona’s policy was based on anything other than trying to get a handle on our broken borders, I think aspects of the law, especially that dealing with ‘reasonable suspicion,’ are going to put our law enforcement officers in an incredibly difficult position. It could also unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens. Throughout American history and throughout this administration we have seen that when government is given an inch it takes a mile.

In other words, the federal government should do its job in protecting the border and conservatives, of all people, should be wary of giving new and ill-defined policing power to the government. Will Rubio take a hit with his base on this? Perhaps. But if they are listening closely, they will see that he’s making a reasoned case for immigration reform that begins with border control. He’s also, at least so far, the anomaly in this debate: someone who takes seriously the constitutional and legal issues and is unwilling to score cheap political points for the sake of revving up his supporters. I suspect he’ll be a lonely voice on this one.

Well, one politician who’s not playing to the crowd on the Arizona immigration law is Marco Rubio. At the risk of incurring the ire of his base, he’s come out with a conservative critique of the bill:

Our legal immigration system must continue to welcome those who seek to embrace America’s blessings and abide by the legal and orderly system that is in place. The American people have every right to expect the federal government to secure our borders and prevent illegal immigration. It has become all too easy for some in Washington to ignore the desperation and urgency of those like the citizens of Arizona who are disproportionately wrestling with this problem as well as the violence, drug trafficking and lawlessness that spills over from across the border.

States certainly have the right to enact policies to protect their citizens, but Arizona’s policy shows the difficulty and limitations of states trying to act piecemeal to solve what is a serious federal problem. From what I have read in news reports, I do have concerns about this legislation. While I don’t believe Arizona’s policy was based on anything other than trying to get a handle on our broken borders, I think aspects of the law, especially that dealing with ‘reasonable suspicion,’ are going to put our law enforcement officers in an incredibly difficult position. It could also unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens. Throughout American history and throughout this administration we have seen that when government is given an inch it takes a mile.

In other words, the federal government should do its job in protecting the border and conservatives, of all people, should be wary of giving new and ill-defined policing power to the government. Will Rubio take a hit with his base on this? Perhaps. But if they are listening closely, they will see that he’s making a reasoned case for immigration reform that begins with border control. He’s also, at least so far, the anomaly in this debate: someone who takes seriously the constitutional and legal issues and is unwilling to score cheap political points for the sake of revving up his supporters. I suspect he’ll be a lonely voice on this one.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Washington Post discovers Climategate: “In an effort to control what the public hears, did prominent scientists who link climate change to human behavior try to squelch a back-and-forth that is central to the scientific method? Is the science of global warming messier than they have admitted?. . . Phil Jones, the unit’s director, wrote a colleague that he would ‘hide’ a problem with data from Siberian tree rings with more accurate local air temperature measurements. In another message, Jones talks about keeping research he disagrees with out of a U.N. report, ‘even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!'” Next, perhaps we can find out why it took the Post weeks to report on the story.

Make it twenty Iranian enrichment sites!

The most disturbing item in this Rasmussen poll on Afghanistan: “53% of voters believe the president places higher importance on ending the war. Just 28% say Obama thinks winning the war is more important. Another 19% are not sure.” It seems imperative for the president to explain himself if he is to convince allies and foes that he is determined to win.

Even Marc Ambinder can’t quite spin Max Baucus out of his trouble over recommending his mistress for a position of U.S. Attorney. Although Ambinder tries awfully hard to distinguish Baucus from conservative scandal-makers (“Mr. Baucus does not hold himself up to be a paragon of rectitude; he is not known for insisting that others follow a code of sexual morality or be damned or otherwise treated as second-class citizens by the government”), he concludes that “Baucus would ignore the conflict of the interest or so easily dismiss it calls into question his judgment and his ethics. That’s a scandal.”

The unmatched Iowahawk is at it again, with a faux Obama West Point address: “Anyhoo, after receiving General McChrystal’s request, I carefully reviewed and focus tested it with some of the top military strategist of DailyKos and Huffington Post. As an alternative, they suggested sending a special force of 200 diversity-trained surrender consultants. After several months of careful deliberation, polling, and strategic golfing, I told the General I would provide him a force of 30,000, which is fully 75% of a 110% commitment.”

The parents of Daniel Pearl on the civilian trial of KSM: “We are not concerned about the safety issues that this trial poses to New York City — we trust our law enforcement officers. Nor are we concerned about the anguish of our children who will be seeing the memories and values of their loved ones mocked and ridiculed in the court room — they have known greater pains before. We are concerned about the millions of angry youngsters, among them potential terrorists, who will be watching this trial unfold on Al Jazeera TV and come to the realization that America has caved in to Al Qaeda’s demands for publicity. The atrocity of 9/11 and the brutal murder of Daniel Pearl are vivid reminders of terrorists’ craving to dramatize their perceived grievances against the West.” Read the whole thing.

As much as liberal pundits are whining about it, Dick Cheney really is closer than Obama to most Americans when it comes to terrorist interrogations. And a plurality of Americans think Obama is not “tough enough.” Again, Cheney thinks so too.

The Washington Post discovers Climategate: “In an effort to control what the public hears, did prominent scientists who link climate change to human behavior try to squelch a back-and-forth that is central to the scientific method? Is the science of global warming messier than they have admitted?. . . Phil Jones, the unit’s director, wrote a colleague that he would ‘hide’ a problem with data from Siberian tree rings with more accurate local air temperature measurements. In another message, Jones talks about keeping research he disagrees with out of a U.N. report, ‘even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!'” Next, perhaps we can find out why it took the Post weeks to report on the story.

Make it twenty Iranian enrichment sites!

The most disturbing item in this Rasmussen poll on Afghanistan: “53% of voters believe the president places higher importance on ending the war. Just 28% say Obama thinks winning the war is more important. Another 19% are not sure.” It seems imperative for the president to explain himself if he is to convince allies and foes that he is determined to win.

Even Marc Ambinder can’t quite spin Max Baucus out of his trouble over recommending his mistress for a position of U.S. Attorney. Although Ambinder tries awfully hard to distinguish Baucus from conservative scandal-makers (“Mr. Baucus does not hold himself up to be a paragon of rectitude; he is not known for insisting that others follow a code of sexual morality or be damned or otherwise treated as second-class citizens by the government”), he concludes that “Baucus would ignore the conflict of the interest or so easily dismiss it calls into question his judgment and his ethics. That’s a scandal.”

The unmatched Iowahawk is at it again, with a faux Obama West Point address: “Anyhoo, after receiving General McChrystal’s request, I carefully reviewed and focus tested it with some of the top military strategist of DailyKos and Huffington Post. As an alternative, they suggested sending a special force of 200 diversity-trained surrender consultants. After several months of careful deliberation, polling, and strategic golfing, I told the General I would provide him a force of 30,000, which is fully 75% of a 110% commitment.”

The parents of Daniel Pearl on the civilian trial of KSM: “We are not concerned about the safety issues that this trial poses to New York City — we trust our law enforcement officers. Nor are we concerned about the anguish of our children who will be seeing the memories and values of their loved ones mocked and ridiculed in the court room — they have known greater pains before. We are concerned about the millions of angry youngsters, among them potential terrorists, who will be watching this trial unfold on Al Jazeera TV and come to the realization that America has caved in to Al Qaeda’s demands for publicity. The atrocity of 9/11 and the brutal murder of Daniel Pearl are vivid reminders of terrorists’ craving to dramatize their perceived grievances against the West.” Read the whole thing.

As much as liberal pundits are whining about it, Dick Cheney really is closer than Obama to most Americans when it comes to terrorist interrogations. And a plurality of Americans think Obama is not “tough enough.” Again, Cheney thinks so too.

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