Hypocrites bash Arizona law

Mexican President Felipe Calderon asked for it when he attacked Arizona’s new immigration law as a “violation of human rights.”

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl (R) and others responded to Calderon’s attacks by pointing out the hypocrisy. Anyone who has compared Mexico’s laws on immigration with ours would dismiss ours as simply weak-kneed.

The Washington Times and other publications reported over the weekend that entering Mexico illegally is a felony carrying a two-year prison sentence. If one can survive a term in a Mexican prison, expulsion is next. If caught trying to re-enter, one can get yet another 10 years, and anyone caught with an expired visa can get six years.

Whether these penalties have prevented a flood of illegal immigrants from the north or whether they just seem to be working because no one really wants to break in to Mexico is a question for another day.

It is also a felony to assist an illegal in Mexico, and woe unto anyone who hires one. Even those entering the country legally can be sent home if Mexican authorities determine that they, for example, “lack the necessary funds for their sustenance.”

What The Washington Times didn’t point out is that under Mexican law, every citizen is, in effect, deputized to ferret out, rat out and even make a citizen’s arrest of any folks they think should be checked out as possibly “illegal.” Whether or not citizens can base such suspicions on appearance or color is not clear, but one might reasonably conclude most of those questioned differ in some physical respect from your average Mexican.

The bottom line is that if Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer “violated” human rights by signing her state’s new immigration law, Calderon ought to be hauled before the International Criminal Court for the policies he oversees.

Of course, Arizona faces a different problem from Mexico. Nearly half a million illegals have streamed into the state, and more are coming every day. Many of them are hardworking and otherwise law-abiding men and women who, had they entered legally, would no doubt have been welcomed with open arms by a state that is itself almost 30 percent Hispanic. Among them, however, are thousands of gangsters, drug dealers and gang members who are making life along the state’s southern border a dangerous living hell for her citizens.

Arizonans have been pleading and demanding that Washington do something about the problem for years — a futile enterprise, it turns out, both because of the partisan wrangling over comprehensive immigration reform and because most lawmakers and commentators aren’t much concerned with conditions they don’t experience on a day-to-day basis. Finally the state decided to act by authorizing state and local law enforcement officers under certain circumstances to ascertain the immigration status of someone they’ve stopped for other reasons.

The new law does not do what its critics claim, which is to authorize cops to wander the streets of Arizona demanding anyone who looks Hispanic to “produce their papers.” And Mr. Calderon is not the only president who has unfairly mischaracterized or hypocritically attacked it.

Last week, President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies unashamedly did what they charged Republicans had done during the healthcare debate. They attacked Arizona’s attempt to deal with illegal immigration before reading the legislation they opposed or consciously mischaracterizing what it does.

In fact, the Arizona law prohibits checking the status of crime victims and witnesses so as to avoid creating an atmosphere in which they won’t feel comfortable coming forward, and imposes greater restrictions on state and local law enforcement officers than required under existing Supreme Court rulings.

The administration’s response has not been reasoned or reasonable. Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano has said the feds may refuse to handle cases arising under the new law; Attorney General Eric Holder wants to challenge it in court; and the president seems to hope he can use it to inflame Hispanic voters around the country to his party’s benefit. This is apparently what passes for responsible leadership in today’s Washington.

The Arizona bill is far, far from perfect and won’t solve all of that state’s problems, but it is a mistake to criticize Gov. Brewer or the State Legislature for trying to come to grips with a problem those presumably responsible for securing our borders and developing a rational immigration policy have ignored.

Keene is chairman of the American Conservative Union and a managing associate with the Carmen Group, a Washington-based governmental consulting firm.