I can always tell when something I've written hits a nerve. The opposition rushes to The Explorer website to slam the column and its writer.
Most columns inspire no more than six online comments. But my recent column on SB1070, the controversial anti-immigrant law, drew over 35 comments, most of them negative.
I'm fine with the personal insults. They come with the territory. And I'm fine with thoughtful comments arguing against my position.
But I'm not fine with people getting their facts wrong. As the saying goes, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.
So I want to correct some misstatements I read in the comments by stating a few facts about the law.
Before I begin, just so you know … I've done everything I can to understand the law. I've read SB1070 numerous times. I've pored over long, complex analyses by constitutional scholars. And I've talked with lawyers.
Fact Number 1: SB1070 not only allows racial profiling; it expects officers to racially profile everyone they stop as a part of determining their immigration status.
Yes, I know, the law says a police officer "may not consider race, color or national origin" in carrying out SB1070. But that's only part of what it says on the subject. The rest states, "… except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution."
And the fact is, both the State and U.S. Supreme Courts have ruled that race and other ethnic factors can be considered in determining a person's immigration status. That means police officers will eyeball people they stop or detain, looking for Hispanic features as a factor in deciding whether a person is here illegally. It's not because they're racists. They'll simply be following the law.
If you're OK with the idea that anyone who looks Hispanic should be considered suspicious by the police – that Hispanics are guilty of being here illegally until proven innocent — you're OK with SB1070. If you don't like the idea of an increase in racial profiling, the law should cause you serious concern.
Fact Number 2: If you look Hispanic, you'd better carry I.D. with you at all times. And it better be the right kind of I.D.
I find it astounding that conservatives, who say they hate government intrusion and would go ballistic if they were told they had to carry national I.D. or be subject to arrest, think it's just fine to require U.S. citizens who are Hispanic to carry I.D. at all times.
But that's the reality of SB1070. If you look Hispanic, even if you're a U.S. citizen, there's a reasonable chance you'll be asked to present your I.D. And not just any I.D. will do.
Do you think any valid driver's license will provide the needed identification? Not so. What about a school student body card? Completely worthless.
You can get a driver's license in some states – New Mexico, for instance – without proving you're in the country legally, so licenses from those states aren't valid for immigration checks.
And student body cards won't do any good, since Arizona schools don't ask students for proof of immigration status.
If you think U.S. citizens with Hispanic features should be required to carry I.D. at all times, and the I.D. has to be a passport or birth certificate if they're from a state like New Mexico or they're Arizona students who don't have driver's licenses, you should be OK with SB1070. If you're against the idea of national I.D. cards for citizens – including Hispanic citizens — the law should cause you serious concern.
You don't have to believe what I've written here. But don't believe Jan Brewer's overly simplistic explanations of the bill either. Read it yourself, slowly and carefully. And once you realize you aren't able to follow the intricacies of this messy and dangerous bill, find yourself an unbiased legal scholar to explain it to you.
Dave Safier is a regular contributor to Blog for Arizona.