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Linda Chavez
Linda Chavez
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Arizona Mythbusting


Arizona has just passed the toughest anti-illegal immigrant law in the country — but you have to wonder: Why now? Illegal immigration is down nationally from its high in 2000, with border apprehensions lower than they've been in 35 years. There are fewer illegal aliens in the U.S. today than there were just two years ago, from 2008 to 2009, 1.2 million illegal immigrants left. In Arizona alone, more than 100,000 illegal aliens have left the state over the last two years, and the number of illegal aliens caught trying to cross into Arizona has been down by almost 40 percent over the last three years. So why did politicians rush to enact a poorly drafted, arguably unconstitutional law at this moment?

The horrific murder of an Arizona rancher in March provided popular momentum for the legislation. A few days before his murder, Robert Krentz found large quantities of illegal drugs on his property and reported it to the police — certainly motive for the vicious cartels that run drugs across the Mexican border to take a hit out on Krentz. Unfortunately, this one murder has led many people to believe that crime in Arizona is rampant and that illegal immigrants are the cause.

The problem with this theory is that actual crime statistics tell a different story. Crime in Arizona has consistently gone down over the last 15 years, even while illegal immigration was increasing. The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports show that the violent crime rate statewide in Arizona has been cut by almost 40 percent since 1995, and property crimes have followed the same pattern.

Violent crime rates — including rape, murder and robbery — haven't been this low since 1972, and Arizona's violent crime decreased at a faster rate than the national decline over the same period. More importantly, this decline in violent crime occurred during the very period that Arizona experienced a huge influx of illegal immigrants, with the Arizona border becoming the main source of illegal entry from Mexico in every year since 1998. Whatever other problems Arizonans have with illegal immigrants, they can't blame them for a non-existent rise in violent crime.

Still, according to the latest polls, it appears that some two-thirds of Arizonans support the new law.

But, as with the misinformation about skyrocketing crime in the state, much of the information being bandied about on what's in the new law also happens to be wrong.

I can't count the times over the last week I've heard reporters and commentators say that the law simply allows police officers who have already stopped someone for a traffic violation or some other crime to require the person to produce proof of legal residence if the officer has "reasonable suspicion" that the person is an illegal immigrant. But the actual wording of the law says something quite different. It gives any state, county or local government official the right to demand documents from persons suspected of being illegal immigrants:

"For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency of the state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of 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."

Apparently, immigrants aren't the only ones we should encourage to learn English; Arizona lawmakers should learn English, too. The syntax and grammar are so convoluted, it's difficult to parse the meaning.

The term "lawful contact," while not defined in the law, has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in the broadest terms. In Terry v. Ohio, the court made clear that police officers have wide latitude to approach anyone and question them on suspicion of a crime — which the Arizona law now defines as "reasonable suspicion" that the person is an illegal immigrant.

The law says race or national origin can't be the sole factor constituting "reasonable suspicion," but it doesn't prohibit race or ethnicity from being (ital) one (ital) factor. As we've seen on affirmative action — where race is claimed to be only one factor in giving preference to minority applicants — it is, unfortunately, almost always the deciding factor. And the same thing will happen here.

The law will not likely pass constitutional muster, but the harm to the 1.5 million Hispanics who are legal residents of Arizona will not easily be forgotten. And politicians who decide to jump on this bandwagon are in for a bumpy ride.

Linda Chavez is the author of "An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal." To find out more about Linda Chavez, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at



5 Comments | Post Comment
Linda, I am a fan of yours. But I think you are off the mark on this issue. You and all the rest of the critics of this legislation depend on a cynical view of the legislature, the governor and the police in Arizona and your arguments are about what you are so certain will be the result of the legislation. Sort of like accusing someone of doing something bad before they do it and then indicting them as if they had already done it. I have not to this point identified you as being part of the lynch media mentality, but I wonder if that is true now...
I come from Massachusetts and have lived in Arizona for 5 years, retired. I have great respect and affection for the workers of Mexican heritage that I have seen here, many of whom I am of the opinion are illegal immigrants. They are hard working and very professional while being very pleasant. I know they aren't all like that but that is my exposure. And for my part, I believe they make great citizens and the kind of people we want here. But you must already know that the illegal immigration problem is awful and that Mexico's violence is spilling across the border. So with the lack of help from Washington DC, Arizona has stuck their finger in Washington's eye and it looks like they scored. Now ugly people are saying ugly things about Arizona and the true nature of certain people is being exposed. I say good work Arizona. And I hold my judgement of the efficazcy of the law till it is in use...
Comment: #1
Posted by: Art Laramee
Fri Apr 30, 2010 11:59 AM
Ms. Chavez, Your editorial only addresses traditional crimes, just the tip of the iceberg. It's great the stats you've reported show a decrease in traditional crime. However, there is a bigger crime that occurs with the influx of illegals: They drain our coffers! They steal federal, state, and local resources from those who are legallly entitled. They rob tax payers dollars. Illegal immigrants have free access to our educational and health resources and create a drain on government fund that are already strained. Some vote illegally, many work illegally, some obtain illegal documents, and few contribute to our assorted tax revenues. These are crimes too.
Also, why are we so worried about asking someone to prove their citizenship to legal authorities? I have to do it. Now in my home state of Florida I will have to bring a passport or birth certificate to obtain my driver's license along with proof a social security number and proof of residency. That is an agent of the government asking me to provide documentation of who I am. Isn't that the same thing a policemen is doing?
Your piece might address some valid points but it misdirects your readers' attention to just a small part of the immigration problem.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Brian Lee
Sat May 1, 2010 6:47 AM
Ms. Chavez,

A 'former liberal' turned Republican, right? B S! You attempt to portray that moniker in order to gain more 'appeal' for national syndication. For you know the liberal mindset is emotionally driven nonsense, facts be damned. Much like your recent op-ed. Ms. Chavez, NO tiger can change their stripes..

As for the 'poorly drafted HB 1070' you'd written, perhaps you feel this way for you're no different than fellow columnist and 'moderate' Ruben Navarette. I see NO difference in yours and his push for 'reform', i.e. amnesty.

HB 1070 It covers all facets of Arizona's, let alone the country's problem with illegal aliens from Mexico and Central America. The bill was carefully written by professors and legislators so as not to 'target' or 'profile' whereas you and your knee jerk liberal posse proclaim in every instance.

Truth be told, more than 60% of the illegal aliens in the U.S. are of Mexican heritage in nearly ALL surveys.

By all means, show me another country/ ethnicity that leaches off tax dollars more so than illegal Mexicans. Again the 'profiling' finger pointing is moot. If we'd bordered Sweden and they incurred the same amount of uselessness as our non-fictional illegal aliens I hope our country would pay closer attention to blond hair blue eyed individuals.

Are our Northern neighbors infecting us with such problems as the Hispanics, Latinos? Of course not, much to your disappointment.

Even our Cuban residents don't suck on the Government teet as overbearing as Mexico and their Central American counterparts partake in.

As I'm sure you're aware, Mexico has protection of their southern border. While I don't condone their methods in apprehending, detaining these lawbreakers, I applaud their efforts in 'repatrioting' these people out of their country and back to their own. As well as attempting to keep their southern border sovereign.

FYI: the main reasons heinous crime has deterred in Arizona is because Arizona has enacted some bills these last 5 + years to 'band-aid' their illegal alien problem so to speak. The result? Illegals move to other states and their 'respectable sanctuary cities'.

Truth be told many states have become left leaning these last 15 years (since Republicans had controlled the House, senate in 1994). It's come to an apex November 2006 when liberal Democrats gained control of House and Senate.

I lived in Colorado nearly half my life. At one time a very Conservative state which boasted of having the #1 Governor in the nation twice in successive years. Though the last 10 years the state has swung wildly left and the result is nearly 500,000 illegal aliens now reside in Colorado. The education system, public schools, juvenile and adult detention facilities, gang task forces, teen pregnancies amongst Hispanics is in a no recovery-like tail spin.

Colorado once boasted of an excellent public education program. Today its run amuck to cater to children and their parents who haven't the tools, intelligence and legalization to live in our borders.

Why Montgomery County, Maryland (another sanctuary city for illegal aliens) has even given 'waivers' for illegal aliens, Hispanic high school seniors to pass Biology, Algebra, Government and English (0f course) exams for graduation. If you can't complete it, 'waiver it'.

has this curtailed or made Montgomery County pols wise up? No way..

You see, Ms Chavez. Montgomery County won't stop and question a person it's detained. Nor will it look for, arrest an illegal unless they commit a felony type crime. So it's AFTER the fact of the illegal alien's crime will Montgomery County assist ICE and find, detain the suspect. Wow, I didn't realize legal citizens are held captive so to speak in their own country until an illegal alien felon is actually CAUGHT doing something heinous. Pathetic.

Montgomery County's productive residents response to their County, let alone state's '#1 in Public Education in scores Nationwide'? Like California, they're leaving in droves. Can you blame them? Like California, having ridiculously high taxes which go to cater to waiver given, felony/ illegal handgun carrying or possessing illegals?

Have fun in identity politic, emotionally driven lala land, Ms. Chavez.

Ms. Chavez, where does Arizona rank nationally in public education scores? 48th. Whereas California and Nevada rank 47th and 49th, disrespectfully. 'Coincidentally' these states (though Arizona is recognizing the problem and making attempts to remedy it) have sanctuary like laws in place. Possess a majority of liberal leaning pols in their states and, oh yeah CLOSE PROXIMITY TO MEXICO!

California possesses more 18 year old Hispanics than any other nationality as of 2007. There are more Hispanic students than any other nationality in California as of 2007 as well. Again, their national ranking is 47th whereas it was in the low-mid 20's nationally some 15 years ago...

While up to 30,000 productive Californians are leaving the Golden State, L.A. County ALONE, from 2009 paid more than $750,000,000 (3/4 of $1 billion dollars) in welfare dollars to children of illegal aliens. L.A. COUNTY ALONE!

The county which 'boasts' of the most illegal aliens in the country. You'd assume that county would be on the forefront to rein in Government entitlements (to non-residents is beyond me...) to illegal aliens is beyond reproach.

Assimilation? There's been none!

The glaring problem in this quagmire is PEOPLE LIKE YOU. When it started to become a problem in the mid 1980's, you and like minded individuals should have spoken up to get other legal Hispanics, Latinos to get the word out and get these foreign invaders out. But you didn't. For many of these invaders were your neighbors, perhaps family or paying customers to one's 'respected' business.

HB 1070 is a result, a reaction if you will, to yours and the Federal Government's laziness in the matter.

Call me 'racist' or 'profiler', if you will. I lived ages 4-14 years old, 1980-1990, in Concord, California. In 1986 or 1987 named '#1 city to live in the country'. My friends, all legal, whose parents, also legal, hailed from India, Afghanistan, Philippines, China, Korea, Japan, UK etc., Today, that city is an armpit overrun with Hispanic gangs, graffiti and squalor. My folks moved to Colorado after the 1989 earthquake.. thank God.

Ms, Chavez, you NEED to read Professor Victor Davis Hanson's, 'Mexifornia: A State of Becoming'. It's an honest, lucid and professionally written book on the mess California is today. Yet, you wish this same demise for Arizona?
Comment: #3
Posted by: Paul
Tue May 4, 2010 8:36 AM
I should have proofread and kept my comments spaced. Sorry to other readers/ posters in advance for my earlier posting.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Paul
Tue May 4, 2010 9:01 AM
Amen Sister. Guess the former liberal turned conservative is about to get kicked out of the Republican party again. I just laugh when I read the comments on here. Full of a bunch of bigots who don't know crap about being Latino in this country. As both you and I can attest, WE DO ASSIMILATE! I'm third gen, and I believe you are second gen. go figure, we both speak English, and I can only speak passable Spanish. So much for that bigoted argument advanced by Paul. Oh and for all you bigots out there....none of my cousins speak Spanish either. Why is that?? Because we ASSIMILATE...just like countless waves of immigrants did before us. Learn your friggin History!
Comment: #5
Posted by: Craig
Wed May 5, 2010 11:50 AM
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