AZ Immigration Law and the Logic of Security

One of the best articles I have seen on the Arizona immigration law just appeared in the AP news feed:

“Before the signing of this bill, citizens would wave at me,” said David Salgado, a 19-year Phoenix police officer who sued the city and the governor asking that the law be blocked. “Now they don’t even want to make eye contact.”

Police officers are debating whether the bill actually helps solve real crimes. Losing the support of communities is a huge risk for a bill that is supposed to help law enforcement.

On Monday, police bosses from Maryland and Nevada condemned the law, saying that it could suck up vital resources and destroy delicate relationships with immigrant communities if implemented in their own states. There are at least nine other states considering similar legislation.

Police Chief Thomas Manger of Montgomery County, Md., in suburban Washington said he doesn’t have the resources or the desire to enforce federal immigration violations by people who aren’t disrupting the community.

“If they’re not committing a crime here, frankly, I’m not sure how it enhances public safety to target those people for removal,” he said.

That sounds right to me. It does not enhance safety to generate false leads or to alienate and disconnect sources of information. An intrusion detection system is worthless without reliable agents and monitors. The AZ law is arguably going to weaken the very system that police rely upon to fight crime.

Targeting based on suspicion also should not be linked alone to physical characteristics such as race or creed or color; those are identifiers only, not indicators. The question, thus, is whether officers will be more able to find violators. It is not sufficient to ask only if they gain more ability to stop someone on sight. That was not the problem, as far as I can tell.

If officers are empowered to decide when it’s appropriate to arrest or even to kill someone, they should be trusted not to profile based on race, said Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, a supporter whose jurisdiction includes busy human and drug smuggling routes into Phoenix.

This argument for the bill is an example of the problems with it. It seems to say if we trust someone with the authority to decide when to kill *then* we should trust that person will not race profile. Perhaps it has been too long since I studied logic, but that reads entirely backwards to me. *If* we trust they will not race profile then we should trust someone with the authority to decide when to kill. Totally different if/then statements.

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