Opinions

Arizona immigration reform: a bad solution to a real problem

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Felipe Calderon, the president of Mexico, is in the United States this week building ties between the two countries. Plenty of work is needed. Mexico is in the midst of attempting to decrease the power of drug cartels across the country, which are doing as much as they can to retain power. They're kidnapping, murdering and extorting to stay in business.

Calderon's chief concern at the meetings, though, isn't the war on drugs but the immigration bill Arizona passed last month.

Thousands of people try to illegally enter the United States from Mexico every year, many of whom come from other countries. With increased drug violence pouring over the border, Arizona has good reason to worry about the safety of its citizens. The city with the most murders in the world per capita, Juarez, is just across the border from Texas and Arizona is also feeling the effects. But the bill, meant to aid Arizona police in immigration control, is too strong. Police are now required to check the citizenship information of anyone they suspect to be illegal immigrants. In practice, many worry the bill will lead to racial profiling -- ­it isn't difficult to discern who might illegally be in Arizona.

The state of America's immigration program is sorely in need of revision. Millions live illegally -- some of whom have been in the country long enough to have second and third generations living there also -- and have built new lives as contributing members of America. Presently, there is no system to naturalize these people. Nor is there an effective means of ensuring the people who should be allowed into the United States are allowed, while the others aren't. Responding to Calderon's statements in a joint press conference on May 19, American president Barack Obama emphasized the need for immigration reform. He also made it clear that it is the federal government's responsibility and not that of each state. Indeed, the Department of Justice is investigating if the Arizona bill violates federal law.

Arizonans are right to worry about their safety. Strengthening immigration laws is one way to potentially improve the problem, but there are better solutions. The problem of illegal immigration isn't going away regardless of better border patrol. John McCain once promoted more wide-scale reform, but because of the upcoming senate elections his immigration policy has shifted to one phrase, "Complete the dang fence." Not only is this near-sighted, but it's bad party policy. White Anglos will be a minority in the U.S. by 2050; Hispanics already make up 15 per cent of the American population and they won't soon forget this bill.

America has one of the highest immigration rates in the world alongside Canada and Australia. This is a strength. Lost jobs are a small concern compared to the benefit of a country of having people with the motivation to make a new start. Immigrants further benefit their new country by maintaining connections to their original country, thus facilitating business and trade. More important to the case for immigration is the ethical argument: no one has a choice over the circumstances of her birth. It's therefore unjust to restrict the mobility of people who wish to move to a better place. This need not amount to a free ride. Obama is clear that emigrating to the U.S. involves some responsibilities, like learning English. However, the role that chance plays should be as limited as possible.

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