With Governor Jan Brewer’s signing of SB 1070, the battle lines were drawn. The prospect of empowering and requiring law enforcement in Arizona to enforce federal immigration law raises civil rights concerns on both sides of the debate. Many supporters seem torn between these concerns and the prospect of overwhelming schools, social services, and the police if illegal immigration is left unchecked. However, as someone who sympathizes with its proponents, I must say that SB 1070 is wrong for Arizona for reasons far beyond civil rights issues.
SB 1070 deserves only one fundamental criticism: It would fail to protect the individual rights of American citizens — even if it hermetically sealed our borders and the police never touched a single American hair in the process of enforcing it. This is because the biggest headaches attributed to illegal immigration are not caused by it at all.
Take education. In Texas, where I lived for twenty years, schoolchildren commonly cross the border from Mexico to attend public schools. Many Americans there are justifiably upset about being taxed to educate non-citizens. I sympathize, but see this as a symptom of an even larger problem: I have no children at all, and yet I have been taxed to finance the educations of other people’s children for decades. I still am, even though I now live far from the Mexican border.
Take so-called social services. In 1986, Congress mandated that emergency care facilities not turn patients away on the basis of an inability to pay. My taxes and part of my personal outlays for medical care are taken from me to help finance that of other people. So what if some of the people I used to pay for in Texas were here illegally? No matter where I am in America today, my pocket is being picked to mend my neighbor’s leg although I have done nothing to harm him.