Top 10 dumbest things said about the Arizona immigration law 

The last few days have seen an extraordinary outburst of criticism of Arizona’s new immigration law.  In the nation’s elite media outlets, its most respected commentators are portraying the law as an act of police-state repression.  Many, if not all, of the specific criticisms can be refuted simply by reading the law itself, but others are more generalized criticisms of immigration enforcement.  In any event, it’s hard to choose the most over-the-top and wrongheaded commentary on the law, but here are ten choices, in no particular order.  (If you don’t know why a particular statement is wrong, you can check here, and here, and here, and here.)

1. “The statute requires police officers to stop and question anyone who looks like an illegal immigrant.”

– New York Times editorial

2. “As the Arizona abomination makes clear, there is a desperate need for federal immigration action to stop the country from turning into a nation of vigilantes suspicious of anybody with dark skin.”

– Dana Milbank, Washington Post

3. “I can’t imagine Arizonans now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of documentation.”

– Cardinal Roger Mahony

4. “This law creates a suspect class, based in part on ethnicity, considered guilty until they prove themselves innocent. It makes it harder for illegal immigrants to live without scrutiny — but it also makes it harder for some American citizens to live without suspicion and humiliation. Americans are not accustomed to the command ‘Your papers, please,’ however politely delivered. The distinctly American response to such a request would be ‘Go to hell,’ and then ‘See you in court.’”

– Michael Gerson, Washington Post

5. “In case the phrase ‘lawful contact’ makes it appear as if the police are authorized to act only if they observe an undocumented-looking person actually committing a crime, another section strips the statute of even that fig leaf of reassurance. ‘A person is guilty of trespassing,’ the law provides, by being ‘present on any public or private land in this state’ while lacking authorization to be in the United States — a new crime of breathing while undocumented.”

– Linda Greenhouse, New York Times

(Greenhouse’s “trespassing” allegation was based on an early version of the Arizona bill that was not the bill that became law.  Her mistake was later removed from the Times site, but you can see original version here.)

6. “Federal law treats illegal immigration as a civil violation; Arizona law criminalizes it by using the legally dubious mechanism of equating the mere presence of undocumented immigrants with trespassing.”

– Washington Post editorial

(This editorial makes the same mistake as Linda Greenhouse’s “trespassing” column above.)

7. “I am saddened today at the prospect of a young Hispanic immigrant in Arizona going to the grocery store and forgetting to bring her passport and immigration documents with her. I cannot be dispassionate about the fact that the very act of her being in the grocery store will soon be a crime in the state she lives in…An immigrant who is charged with the crime of trespassing for simply being in a community without his papers on him is being told he is committing a crime by simply being.”

– Bishop Desmond Tutu, Huffington Post

(Tutu is perhaps relying on the erroneous information in the New York Times and Washington Post above.)

8. “It harkens back to apartheid where all black people in South Africa were required to carry documents in order to move from one part of town to another.”

– Cynthia Tucker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on ABC’s “This Week”

9. “You can imagine, if you are a Hispanic American in Arizona…suddenly, if you don’t have your papers and you took your kid out to get ice cream, you’re going to be harassed.”

– President Barack Obama

10. “This week, Arizona signed the toughest illegal immigration law in the country which will allow police to demand identification papers from anyone they suspect is in the country illegally. I know there’s some people in Arizona worried that Obama is acting like Hitler, but could we all agree that there’s nothing more Nazi than saying ‘Show me your papers?’ There’s never been a World War II movie that didn’t include the line ’show me your papers.’ It’s their catchphrase. Every time someone says ’show me your papers,’ Hitler’s family gets a residual check. So heads up, Arizona; that’s fascism. I know, I know, it’s a dry fascism, but it’s still fascism.”

– Seth Myers, “Saturday Night Live”

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