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Juan Williams, the 'Greater Good' ... It's All Semantics

President Obama said on April 27, 2010 that the then new Arizona immigration law was bad because:

[This] law that just passed in Arizona -- which I think is a poorly conceived law ... (applause) ... you can try to make it really tough on people who look like they, “might be illegal immigrants.” One of the things that the law says is local officials are allowed to ask somebody who they have a suspicion might be an illegal immigrant for their papers. But you can imagine, if you are a Hispanic American in Arizona -- your great-grandparents may have been there before Arizona was even a state. But now, suddenly, if you don’t have your papers and you took your kid out to get ice cream, you’re going to be harassed. That’s something that could potentially happen. That’s not the right way to go. (Applause.)

He lied, by pretending that he knew what he was talking about (there seems to be a quaint but fading assumption that presidents usually do know what they are talking about). He evidently didn't since he grossly mischaracterized a law as to which even his attorney general two weeks later had no more to go on than "what he had heard" and had "read in the newspapers." Yet President Obama flatly stated that it could do precisely what it prohibits.

The Arizona immigration law states:

For any lawful stop, detention or arrest made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of this state or a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person, except if the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation. Any person who is arrested shall have the person’s immigration status determined before the person is released. The person’s immigration status shall be verified with the federal government pursuant to 8 United States code section 1373(c). A law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state may not consider race, color or national origin in implementing the requirements of this subsection except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution. A person is presumed to not be an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States if the person provides to the law enforcement officer or agency any of the following: (emphasis added)

Being harassed by the cops for going out for ice cream with the family? Possible I suppose, if they rob a convenience store en route or otherwise violate laws having nothing to do with mere presence, national origin, color, or race.

Perhaps it was all the ubiquitous TOTUS' idea (Gosh darn! He goes everywhere with the POTUS). Maybe President Obama, Nobel Prize winning genius that he is, knows about and meant to refer to one of the parallel universes soon possibly to be discovered.

Why didn't President Obama simply say that immigration control is preempted by the federal government, under his leadership, and that the states have no business interfering? Not much emotional appeal there, and it would not have played the race card, so dear to his true believers; but that's the essence of the argument later made in court.

"Misstatements" such as these go on to become endlessly regurgitated urban legends. On October 18, 2010, this gem appeared in Salon.com:

Last April ... the Arizona Legislature passed an immigration bill that allows state and local police to demand documentation of those who are suspected of being in the United States illegally and then to arrest those who fail to provide it. (emphasis added)

That is not what the statute says. There were and continue to be other such distortions. This is one of many:

[The Arizona] bill that requires police to question people about their immigration status -- including asking for identification -- if they suspect someone is in the country illegally.

Here is another:

Anyone who "looks the part" is now at risk of being detained, assaulted or even murdered for the crime of appearing to be a potential "unauthorized immigrant."