NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 11, 2010

To understand the hysterical reaction to Arizona's new immigration initiative, consider the numbers, says Heather Mac Donald, a contributing editor at City Journal and a co-author of "The Immigration Solution."

For example:  

  • There are 6,000 federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents tasked with restoring the rule of law in a country that already contains between 12 and 20 million immigration law-breakers.
  • Any intending illegal immigrant knows that if he can get across the border undetected, he faces a minute risk of being apprehended on U.S. soil.
  • By comparison, the New York Police Department, with a current headcount of 35,000, feels itself greatly understaffed in a compact city of eight million residents, only a portion of whom are law-breakers. 

The Arizona law, were it to be widely emulated, threatens to disrupt the calculus of illegal immigration, says Mac Donald.  There are 650,000 state and local police officers in the United States.  If a significant portion of those officers received the mandate of the Arizona law -- to inquire where practicable into the immigration status of an individual they have legitimately stopped, if they have a valid reason to believe he is in the country illegally -- the balance between law enforcement and law-breaking would be changed enough to likely deter illegal border crossings and to persuade many illegal immigrants already in the United States to return to their home countries rather than face arrest and deportation. 

The opponents of Arizona's law -- SB 1070 -- detest it not because it will lead to racial profiling (it will not), nor because it is unconstitutional (it is not), but because it just might work, says Mac Donald.  Texas is reportedly already considering a similar law.  The illegal immigrant lobby knows that it has to stop SB 1070 if it wants to maintain its monopoly over border matters, a monopoly that has led to the chaos that is now engulfing Arizona. 

Source: Heather Mac Donald, "Arizona law is hated because it could be effective," Washington Examiner, May 5, 2010.


Browse more articles on Government Issues