Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reply To Vallicella on SB 1070

I argued that SB 1070 isn’t viable because there are no sensible criteria for “reasonable suspicion” that a person is here illegally that are non-racial. Vallicella responds that there is a clause in the bill about stops made "during any legitimate contact made by an official . . . ." I take it what he is getting at here is that the officer has to be going about legitimate police business of some kind other than what is related to checking immigration status. I take it he is interpreting that clause to mean that, pace Obama, the law wouldn’t permit the official to stop someone who was walking their dog and looked Hispanic. The trouble is that the law actually made being here illegally itself a state crime, so it would seem to me that any attempt to determine whether the crime of being here illegally had been committed would constitute a legitimate contact.

In the example Vallicella uses, the person has been pulled over for a missing tail light, and is, as a matter of routine, is asked for his driver’s license. At that point, if the person fails to produce a license, speaks no English, and can’t produce registration or proof of insurance, the officer might then have reasonable suspicion for checking papers and attempting to determine immigration status. Now he doesn’t mention the role of skin color in determining whether the inquiry is made, nor does he mention whether or not he thinks I should be expected to produce immigration papers if I were similarly stopped, although, of course, I can speak English. Or, what if a German were stopped, who doesn’t speak English but only German?

Now this is somewhat different from his example of RICO statutes and Italians, in the sense that it does seem to involve the use of race or ethnicity as a criterion for determining whether an immigration investigation commences or not. Is it OK so long as it isn’t the only criterion, or even the primary criterion?

Notice also that Vallicella has chosen an example where the officer, as a matter of routine, checks for a driver’s license. In some cases of police activity, checking the DL is not involved. My example from the original post comes for experience living next to Hispanics who sometimes played their Spanish language music too loud late at night. We sometimes call the police when that happened. If the police were to come out and find that the people were Hispanic and playing music in Spanish, would this constitute “reasonable suspicion” that the people were here illegally?

So far, I have not had my suspicions allayed that the law has been crafted well enough to avoid either being a completely ineffective lawsuit magnet, or a racially prejudicial. My suspicion is that this will cause more trouble than it's worth to citizens and legal aliens who happen to be Hispanic.


Anonymous said...

Racial profiling is a red herring; if 99% of the illegal aliens in a state are hispanic, then hispanics are going to be targeted in any enforcement of immigration law. So if immigration law is to be enforced in a state like AZ, then it will involve de facto racial profiling. The question really is 'should immigration law be enforced or not?' I know what Barack Obama and George W Bush think about that, but what do you think about it?

Humdinger said...

"it does seem to involve the use of race or ethnicity as a criterion for determining whether an immigration investigation commences or not. Is it OK so long as it isn’t the only criterion, or even the primary criterion?"

It's okay just so long as it is the most effective criterion. That is all that should matter.

Victor Reppert said...

I guess I would ask what the rate of exchange is between effective border enforcement and collateral damage to the Hispanic community. The loss inflicted on innocent people who happen to look like the majority of guilty people is a loss that has to be taken seriously.

Vallicella says the Federal Government has failed to enforce the border and stop illegal immigration. He's right. At the risk of opening up another can of worms, the Feds can put a major damper on illegal immigration by ripping NAFTA to shreds.

Doctor Logic said...

In reading Vallicella's response, I found myself curious about how he would react if the legislation in question was intended to control violations of gun licensing laws.

If we order the authorities to, say, check for gun licenses when they perform traffic stops or tell residents to turn down the party music, will Vallicella's confidence in law enforcement remain just as high?

Personally, I think the law seems to be more about politics and ideology than about effective policy. I'm really curious to see if the law is effective on balance. I think there are sooo many things that can go horribly wrong with this approach, but it is at least conceivable that it could work.