The Unethical Ethics Attacks on Arizona

The anger, ridicule and threats being heaped on Arizona for its illegal immigration enforcement law defies fairness and rationality, and has been characterized so far by tactics designed to avoid productive debate rather than foster it. Now, with the help and encouragement of professional bullies like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, Arizona is facing an economic boycott, which, like all boycotts, carries the message “we’re going to force you to do what we want, whether we’re right or not.” Meanwhile, all of the over-heated rhetoric diverts the focus to side issues rather than the major problem that prompted the Arizona law in the first place: out of control illegal immigration, and its very obvious—and very serious—negative consequences to the entire nation.

Whether they know it or not, opponents of Arizona’s law are using a common ethics misconception to its advantage. Illegal immigration enforcement is an ethical conflict, which occurs when two or more ethical principles dictate different results, and thus have to be weighed against each other. The attacks on Arizona, however, have framed the argument as an ethics dilemma, defined as a problem in which the ethical course is clear, but powerful non-ethical considerations make rejecting it seem attractive. This allows the opponents of Arizona’s law to inaccurately place themselves in the moral high ground, sniping at Arizona as it supposedly wallows in a pit of greed, meanness, nativism and bigotry….non-ethical considerations all. Much of the media, to their discredit (but the media has so much discredit now that they don’t seem to care any more), is accepting this spin.

The spin, however, is nonsense. Law enforcement and crime prevention are ethical considerations. Making a clear and unequivocal statement that cheating and rule-breaking will not be protected, exalted, defended or rewarded is a necessary ethical goal. Fairness to legal applicants for citizenship is an ethical objective. Rational use of taxpayer funds is a fiduciary duty. Protection of the borders is a primary obligation of government, and fulfilling it is an ethical imperative. These and more are strong and indisputable ethical arguments for  measures against illegal immigrants, and countering them are an array of ethical considerations that center on individual, rather than community, societal and national interests. Their centerpiece? That enforcing the law might lead to “racial profiling.”

The only way the ethical desire to avoid racial profiling can trump the mass of ethical objectives on the  other side of the ethical conflict is if it is treated as an absolute, meaning that avoiding racial profiling or anything that could possibly lead to it trumps anything and everything. There are undoubtedly some people who take this position, but if one thinks about it objectively for a nanosecond, it is indefensible. This isn’t torture, a legitimate absolute prohibition, that we are discussing. We are talking about the indignity and embarrassment of being asked to confirm one’s citizenship in an area where a large proportion of the people who look and sound like you have, in fact, broken the law and are, in effect, stealing American citizenship, residence, and all its benefits. For American society and culture, it is no contest: finding and apprehending illegal immigrants out-balances the racial profiling concerns, just as stopping terrorists with bombs from getting on airplanes trumps concerns over other possible abuses of racial profiling. Indeed, as long as illegal immigration continues to be unenforced, many American citizens will be increasingly “profiled” by others who will have legitimate suspicions that they are not, in fact, law-abiding citizens.

Attributing this completely rational and obvious resolution of an ethical dilemma to racism, as so many critics of the Arizona law are now doing, is worse than unfair; it is intentionally misleading and therefore dishonest. Bigotry is irrelevant when a choice is lawful, rational and fair, even if the bigotry might have led to the same choice without those other factors. Whether I am a racist or not, if my house is burglarized by a black man, my pressing charges and seeking his punishment is not a racist act. My response is completely justified and rational. Now, a group trying to create public sentiment against prosecuting the burglar, because, let’s say,

  • he’s a hard-working burglar,
  • he has children that aren’t burglars, and punishing him will cruelly hurt them,
  • after all, there were burglars in all of our families once,
  • the burglar had to burgle my house because there were no homes with anything worth burgling where he lived
  • if we only give him a chance, he could become good law-abiding citizen once we just stopped treating him like a burglar, pardoned him, and let him start a new life,
  • the Nazis and other totalitarian regimes, especially in movies, prosecuted burglars too, so if we do it we’re really, you know, no different from them,
  • it’s un-American and un-Christian to prosecute people just for breaking the law and taking other people’s stuff, and
  • if you were a burglar, you wouldn’t want to be prosecuted, would you?

…might choose the tactic of claiming I am a racist to cast my reasonable and necessary decision as one made for illegitimate reasons. But unless they can show that there is another response that will more effectively curb burglary rather than encouraging it, this is only a tactic designed to make an ethical consideration look non-ethical, or even unethical.

There are many unethical parties here: business interests, which want to continue to pay exploitive wages to illegals so costs can be kept low...Democrats, who are willing to keep the borders open and not enforce the laws because they see it as a route to power...the segment of the Hispanic-American population which sides against its country’s own security, financial health, self-governance and law-enforcement interests…race-baiters like Sharpton, who use the issue to keep the race issue boiling…talk-radio, conservatives and the Tea-Party types, who oppose any route to citizenship for illegals already here, as if finding and deporting 11 million people isn’t certifiably insane…elected officials of both parties, which have lacked the courage, common sense and political will to address the problem as it has worsened for decades…pundits and personalities on the radio and TV, who criticize the bill without having read it (this one is not 3000 pages long)…lazy or deceitful copy-editors and headline writers, who manipulate public opinion by calling the Arizona measure an “immigration law,” when in fact it is a statute enabling the enforcement of existing laws…Mexico, which brutally enforces its own immigration laws but has the gall to object when the United States tries to enforce its own laws,  being violated as a direct result of that country’s habitually corrupt and ineffective government…and the illegal immigrants themselves.

But not Arizona.

15 thoughts on “The Unethical Ethics Attacks on Arizona

  1. There’s room for disagreement here. The burglar analogy is interesting, but I’m not quite convinced. It looks to me like the Arizona law will do less good and cause more collateral damage than the laws against burglary. And in addition to hurting the innocents it tears at the fabric of our society.

  2. There’s always room for disagreement.

    I don’t know what “tears the fabric of society” means here. It seems to mean that once you allow enough criminals into society, enforcing the laws against crime “tears the fabric.” But that’s like saying that blasting out a termite infestation “damages the foundation” or that removing a tumor “destroys the body’s integrity.” The remedy isn’t the problem.

    • I mean that it inflames passions, sets one group against an other, erodes our sense of community, and makes us footnote the Golden Rule.

      And I don’t believe the Arizona law is the remedy.

  3. For me to accept that, I’d have to be convinced that allowing illegal immigrants to take jobs, send children to schools, receive government funds, commit crimes, and warp the democratic process doesn’t inflame passions, set one group against an other, or erode our sense of community. I do object to the Golden Rule application here. I don’t expect or want to not be held accountable for the laws I break, and I don’t think you do either.

    Arizona’s law does nothing but say, ‘we’re going to enforce the law.” How can enforcing a law NOT be the solution to a law not being enforced?

    “Is a puzzlement!”

  4. This debate is always bizarre because it boils down to two sides.

    Side 1: Is against allowing illegal aliens to enter or remain in the country. Feels that they should not be rewarded for breaking the law and should be deported. We should first allow immigrants with secured jobs and needed job skills.

    Side 2: Is against foreigners from entering this country legally. Feels that basically, the only immigrants that should be allowed in are those that come in uncontrolled across the Mexican border. We should focus on allowing immigrants who don’t speak the language, have poor education, and can fill low wage, menial jobs.

    This may be an oversimplification, but it is basically right. For every illegal immigrant we tolerate to be here, we have one less immigration slot for someone who is following the rules. I have not seen someone who legally entered this country become a permanent resident alienwithout the intervention of a congressman in 15 years. If they entered illegally, they get amnesty American citizenship.

    The fight is between those against illegal immigration and those against legal immigration. In practice, you can’t be for both.

    • Michael–
      I am against illegal immigration, but can’t sign up for your side 1 or side 2. Deporting 10 or 12 million people is wildly impractical, would punish many of the guilty far out of proportion to their offense, and would wreak havoc with millions of innocents.
      By the way, not all illegals snuck across the border with Mexico–many, perhaps 40-50% entered legally and overstayed their visas. Strengthening border enforcement wouldn’t do a thing to reduce this part of the problem.

  5. And yet those who oppose illegal immigration are routinely smeared as ANTI-immigration. Go figure.
    This one of those tenets of the liberal set of beliefs that try as I might, I cannot explain without using unflattering terms. It’s harmful, irresponsible, and unfair—and unethical, of course.

  6. Aarrrgh. I hate it when I’m unethical. Let me try again: I oppose illegal immigration, and I support greatly increasing the USG’s ability to control the borders and to track visa-holders. Ethical so far?

    But I don’t support cruel and inhuman punishment of people whose ONLY offense (not crime) was illegal entry. Is that what makes me unethical?

    • You lose me, Bob—what’s the cruel and unusual punishment? Sending someone home? I don’t recall that anyone is proposing torturing or shackling illegals. I think we should be polite, gentle and firm. The distinction between “offense” and “crime” here is political maneuvering only. What other “civil violation” involves fraud, dishonesty, misrepresentation obstruction of justice, taking of resources, over-burdening tax-payer services, labor and wage distortion, disease control, population control, and undermining national security? It looks like a crime and quacks like a crime: I have no problem calling these individuals criminal. You really think sneaking into the country is like failing to have a license for your dog? Going 10 miles over the speed limit?

      • I know I’m over my head arguing law with a lawyer, but here goes: I think the section I’ve pasted below requires children to turn in their parents, and vice versa. Also, some (many??) of the illegals have committed no offense whatever—they were brought in illegally as children, perhaps long ago. I also think it’s cruel to outlaw their looking for work, as well as outlawing such looking by legals as well. And it’s arguable whether they represent a net plus or minus to the US economy. I think it’s a plus.

        At least, if there’s a shred of accuracy in my arguments, allow that I’m not being unethical to think these things, and to think that the Arizona law is a bad thing.

        13-2929. Unlawful transporting, moving, concealing, harboring
        9 or shielding of unlawful aliens; vehicle
        10 impoundment; exception; classification
        11 A. IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR A PERSON WHO IS IN VIOLATION OF A CRIMINAL
        12 OFFENSE TO:
        13 1. TRANSPORT OR MOVE OR ATTEMPT TO TRANSPORT OR MOVE AN ALIEN IN THIS
        14 STATE, IN FURTHERANCE OF THE ILLEGAL PRESENCE OF THE ALIEN IN THE UNITED
        15 STATES, IN A MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION IF THE PERSON KNOWS OR RECKLESSLY
        16 DISREGARDS THE FACT THAT THE ALIEN HAS COME TO, HAS ENTERED OR REMAINS IN THE
        17 UNITED STATES IN VIOLATION OF LAW.
        18 2. CONCEAL, HARBOR OR SHIELD OR ATTEMPT TO CONCEAL, HARBOR OR SHIELD
        19 AN ALIEN FROM DETECTION IN ANY PLACE IN THIS STATE, INCLUDING ANY BUILDING OR
        20 ANY MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION, IF THE PERSON KNOWS OR RECKLESSLY DISREGARDS THE
        21 FACT THAT THE ALIEN HAS COME TO, HAS ENTERED OR REMAINS IN THE UNITED STATES
        22 IN VIOLATION OF LAW.

        • I think it could be read that way, but it would never, never be enforced that way.

          Its another can of worms, but I see no reason why the law allowing children born of illegal immigrants to be citizens shouldn’t be repealed. If the parents are here illicitly, then the child isn’t born here under conditions warranting citizenship. For illegal immigrant advocates to complain that deporting illegals separates them from their citizen children, a.k.a. “anchor babies”, is “heartless” is really similar to the old joke about the parent killer asking for mercy because he is an orphan.

  7. I think all of you are quite frankly, unintelligent. It’s completely unethical to risk the freedom of those that are here legally of being stopped and possibly detained where “reasonable suspicion exists” that they’re in the country illegally. This is in clear violation in that in order to enforce this law, some racial profiling will exist. Read the law and think for yourself why don’t you, rather than saying to yourselves, “I like the sound of this law” just because it attacks illegal immigration. Let’s hold our breath on a certain party saying yes to stopping illegal immigration via common sense when the time comes. Trust me, the federal bill will be introduced soon. This law will do absolutely nothing to the percentage of the population there that’s Latino. Picking up illegal immigrants like ants using an understaffed and underfunded police force is the most ridiculous solution anybody could come up with in all reality. This is how you think the problem will be solved? Wake up and smell the coffee. Think for yourself and by the way, this law is obviously in question of breaking the U.S. Constitution and professionalism when it comes to ethics. The suit filed by the Department of Justice proves there’s a dilemma. Why don’t you put the bigotry aside and wait for the judge to decide.

    • Sorry, Bobby: 1) The fact that there’s a lawsuit “proves” exactly nothing. 2) the basis of the suit has nothing whatsoever to do with what’s right and wrong. It is based on a Constitutional argument that is anything but settled. Your argument is self-contradictory, If you don’t believe racial profiling is reasonable, then the law doesn’t “call for” it. If racial profiling is “reasonable suspicion,” then you should have no problem with it.
      The freedom of one here legally is no more “risked” by a question from a police officer than my freedom is “risked” when I have to be wanded at an airport. Less, in fact. You’ll have to do better than this.

      The risk that law-abiding Americans and legal immigrants have their quality of life, resources and security diminished by cynically unenforced immigration laws is far, far greater than anything you mentioned.

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