Matt Welch on the Immigration Law

Matt Welch at Reason writes:

I have sympathy for people who are freaked out by desperate immigrants and ruthless smugglers trampling over their property in southern Arizona, and as I’ve said elsewhere, us pro-immigrant types too easily skate over rule-of-law objections. Federal immigration policy is a failure, and poses real public policy challenges that no amount of righteous indignation and/or handwaving makes disappear.

But anti-illegal immigration crackdowns almost always end up restricting freedom for the rest of us. And giving cops more power is almost always felt more on the receiving end by people–including people just as law-abiding as you and I–who don’t look like the norm. Remember, the stated goal of the new law is “to make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona.” Those who think you can surgically accomplish “attrition” without inflaming and driving out legal residents, too, are kidding themselves.

Glenn Reynolds comments:

This is a good argument for focusing border security at . . . the border, where it doesn’t impact ordinary citizens day-to-day. Shifting from border security to internal security is both an admission of failure at the borders, and a much more far-reaching and intrusive approach.

I would agree.  It’s certainly true that some amount of internal enforcement is necessary, but internal enforcement should not be our primary emphasis.  I also believe that if legal immigration were easier, there would be less incentive for otherwise law-abiding aliens to enter the country illegally.  I believe border security is important, but I also believe the country should be more welcoming to those who wish to come here to work or study.