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.