Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Worse Than Useless

Despite a resounding defeat last May, Republican House candidate John Jaremchuk is trying once again to pass a law that would allow police to ticket anyone who can't prove U.S. residency within 72 hours. Hark to his cold inexorable logic:

I know critics are going to say it's racial profiling, but to some extent, racial profiling is necessary these days because of terrorism.
Well, Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph were white, last time I checked, as are most "eco-terrorists." And Mohammed Atta wasn't here illegally, if memory serves; he had a multiple entry visa. On top of which, what makes those dreaded al-Qaeda sleeper cells so frightening is that they may comprise people who legally live and work in the USA:
Some of the suspected advisers are believed to be longtime U.S. citizens, fully immersed in American life and able to financially direct an attack without directly participating in it....
In other words, proof of residency is not proof that one is not a terrorist. And people with visas - like Mohammed Atta - may be here legally without proof of residency. More to the point, perhaps, fining people $100 isn't really an effective deterrent against terrorism.

There are respectable arguments to be made against illegal immigration, so it's interesting that the rhetoric of anti-immigration crusaders is so often dishonest and crude. In my view, demagogues like Jeremchuk act as unwitting force multipliers for terrorists. They overreact to threats, increase worldwide resentment towards the USA, and use overblown rhetoric to divert money and attention from real issues to their pet hobbyhorses. They encourage an ill-informed contempt for legal rights and due process, while claiming to uphold the law. And they create a false sense of security by pretending to take anti-terrorism measures, which is likely to result in even more demoralization and panic if another attack actually occurs. In short, they're considerably worse than useless.

If you want to fight illegal immigration, that's your right. But do it honestly. Don't pretend that issuing $100 tickets to people with brown skin is going to strike some sort of blow against al-Qaeda.

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