EDITORIAL: Arizona law needs further research, action

Editorial Board

Many of you have heard of Arizona’s new immigration law by now. There’s been social and political unrest on multiple sides which, in Phoenix, became a “small riot” as reported by the local FOX News stations.

Unfortunately, we really don’t know what to say. None of the editorial board members believes in or supports racism of any kind, which is exactly what several sources — including Arizona Sheriff Claren Dupnik — call the law: racist. They suggest it will mandate racial profiling, because the state police will be tasked with questioning anyone they have “reasonable suspicion” of being an illegal immigrant.

And what’s “reasonable suspicion?” How does a police officer identify such a person? In the words of Gov. Jan Brewer: “I don’t know what an illegal immigrant looks like.”

That’s a problem. But, we had to ask ourselves, is it a large enough problem to outweigh the potential benefits of the law? As coldhearted as it sounds, we had to wonder: Is it worth engaging in possibly prejudiced actions if it helps secure our future?

That’s when we started to realize we really didn’t know. We’ve never lived that life.

We have no idea what it’s like to grow up and live being judged by skin color. The general consensus is that, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” But is that really true? Do some individuals — in Arizona’s case, possibly Hispanics — have nothing to hide, but everything to fear?

We don’t know, and we can’t reasonably speculate. Right now, we can only observe.

Judging by what we’ve seen so far, even well-intentioned actions can bring destruction to U.S. citizens. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom suspended travel to Arizona for city officials and city employees in an effective boycott of the entire state. Newsom said on CNN that the aim was not at the citizens of Arizona, but at the officials. Unfortunately, you can’t exactly aim for the head without hurting the body.

As the Arizona Hotel and Lobbying association notes on their Facebook page, even though the tourism industry had nothing to do with enacting the immigration law, they have become victims of circumstance. They worry that the 200,000 families “who rely on the tourism industry for their livelihood” will be destroyed by actions such as Newsom’s. And that’s a valid concern; despite the emotional and civil weight of this issue — which there undoubtedly is, and it is a vital thing to consider — we also need to think long-term into protecting the economic security of Arizona and the United States.

Maybe the Arizona law is too harsh in trying to meet that goal. Maybe we still have more to consider in pitting the civil rights of the individual against the security of the nation. Maybe we haven’t found the proper balance between enforcement of the law and reduction of collateral damage. At this point, we don’t know.

But we want to know, and you should, too. We want more digging, we want more information, we want more research and we want more action. And while the idea of the federal government sticking its nose into state business might not sound appealing, the potential benefit is that immigration reform can become a real priority in Congress and to Obama.

Although this law has struck a hard heel into loose soil with its first step, maybe the end result will yield the right results. If this law is indeed a mistake, maybe we can learn from it and begin to focus on creating a proper avenue for those wishing to become Americans while protecting those of us who are already fortunate enough to be called “citizen.”