David Shepherd: News Blog

Journalist's Notebook

The Immigration Debate

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com]

The nation is divided on the idea of states adopting newer, tougher anti-illegal immigration laws.  Spearheaded by Arizona’s controversial law, states across the country are looking in to following their lead.

In Indiana, state senator Mike Delph (R-Carmel) wants to pass an, “Arizona-like” law giving law enforcement across the state the authority to stop and question any individual about their status in the United States as long as the officer has “reasonable suspicion” they are here illegally.

Arizona Senate Bill 1070 Sec. 2. Title 11, chapter 7 (Section B):

“FOR ANY LAWFUL CONTACT MADE BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR A LAW

ENFORCEMENT AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR A LAW

ENFORCEMENT AGENCY OF A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF

THIS STATE WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO

IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE

MADE, WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON,

EXCEPT IF THE DETERMINATION MAY HINDER OR OBSTRUCT AN INVESTIGATION.”

CLICK HERE to read the entire bill.

During a recent interview on WTWO (NBC 2 – Terre Haute), state representative Clyde Kersey said, “I think the law is unconstitutional and the reason I believe that is because immigration is a federal responsility.”

Delph says he agrees with democratic critics who say immigration policy is federal jurisdiction.  But Delph remains doubtful that a democratic president and congress will pass a federal policy strong enough to get the problem of immigration under control.

During a recent interview on WTWO, Delph told me he, and many republicans, are frustrated with Washington and ready to take matters in to their own hands.

Delph’s interest in illegal immigration reform is not new.  For the past three years, Delph has proposed legislation in the State House that addresses illegal immigration.  It has been defeated every time.  This upcoming legislative session could be the fourth consecutive year Delph tries to tackle Indiana’s immigration problem.  He says if congress doesn’t act, he will.

But is illegal immigration in Indiana really a big problem worthy of a new, tough immigration policy?  Obviously, it depends on where you go.  In smaller towns like Terre Haute, immigration doesn’t seem like a big problem.  But go to Indianapolis, Fort Wayne or Bloomington and you might see a much more diverse population.  Granted, Indiana, unlike Arizona, isn’t a boarder state but reports show at least 85-thousand illegal immigrants live in the Hoosier State.

I’ve spoken to state lawmakers on both sides and they seem to agree something must be done about Indiana’s immigration problem.  The debate boils down to how exactly the reform should be implemnted.

CLICK HERE to view my story on mywabashvalley.com (NBC WTWO 2 / FOX 38 WFXW).

So, what is all of this about?  I think a lot of the nation’s problems right now make the issue of illegal immigration important to many citizens.

First, take national security.  How can we possibly protect ourselves from terrorist attack if we don’t even know who is in the country?  I’m a moderate thinker (who leans a bit more left than anything) but I want every person in this country accounted for.

I am not calling illegal immigrants terrorists but if we are serious about the security of our nation, we have to look at all illegal immigrants (not just from Mexico but from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc.).

Secondly, the job market is still struggling.  People aren’t getting jobs as quick as they lost them during the recession.  For a long time, Americans have debated if illegal immigrants take jobs that, “Americans don’t want.”  To be honest, I don’t know the answer.  I don’t know who is right in that argument.  But either way, jobs are a big reason many people are looking at immigration more than usual right now.

With health care reform being unrolled as we speak, many fear that non-tax paying illegal immigrants will show up at hospitals looking for care with no money to pay the bill.  Usually, when someone can’t pay a hospital, and they show a financial need, they can get financial assistance which is funded, in part, with federal tax dollars.

When reporting the story for WTWO, I asked viewers to write in and let us know what they think about illegal immigration.  Out of all of the responses I received, not ONE wrote in opposition of immigration reform.  It seems most people want something to be done but don’t know how to execute it.  Is it possible citizens want some kind of action so any law cracking down on illegal immigration sounds better than nothing?  Or do people really believe the particular details of the Arizona law are the best way to handle the immigration problem?

Honestly, how many people have actually read the actual transcript of the bill?  You can’t take the national media’s word for it.  If you turn on Fox News Channel, most of their on-air talent are more politically right thinkers and personal opinion too many times lead to viewers mistaking fact for opinion.  It’s the opposite side of the spectrum when you turn on more liberal leaning CNN or MSNBC.

The sad truth is, the national media (along with some local media around the nation) are filled with people with a human instinct to analyze a problem and think of a best solution.  So when you hear “facts” on television or in the papers, are you really hearing facts or are you hearing opinions being twisted slightly to sound factual?  What’s the point you ask?  If you want to really know what the law will and will not do, print off a copy and read it for yourselves.

At the same time, one could ask if the law is really needed.  As I mentioned earlier, the Arizona law gives police the authority to stop an individual and question them about their status in the United States if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the individual is here illegally.  Isn’t reasonable suspicion just another name for probable cause?  If a cop believed someone was here illegally before, do you think they didn’t investigate it before the new law took effect?  All police need to investigate a crime (being in the country illegally is a crime, that’s not opinion, that is fact) is probable cause or “reasonable suspicion.”

Is this law nothing more than just a political bargaining chip months before a crucial national mid-term election?  Do the framers of this bill think the law really changes things or is it just a way to re-write the current law in a more intimidating and frightening way?  Could go either way.

One thing is for sure.  The issue of illegal immigration is not going anywhere anytime soon.  I think it’s going to be a hot mid-term election issue that will energize both sides.  For some Americans, how a candidate views illegal immigration will determine how they vote.

Many legal scholars are already predicting a legal challenge in federal court.  They say the law is unconstitutional and encourages law enforcement to use racial profiling as a tool in the war against illegal immigration.  Some have predicted the issue of illegal immigration will be settled in the United States Supreme Court.

The high court has two fresh faces on the bench, both appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the senate.  These two, Judge Sonia Sotomayor and United States Solicitor General, Elena Kagan, could be key in the opposition of the law, if it makes it to the Supreme Court.  President Obama has said he is opposed to Arizona’s new law.

So, what will the next few months bring for immigration reform?  I think we will be seeing a lot of federal legal challenges, an increase in racial tensions in some areas of the United States, and a real debate on the future of immigration reform.

Let’s not assume that real debate is a bad thing.  Some of the nation’s most defining moments came out of great debate and a clear vision for change.  It’s how things are supposed to work in a democracy.  Liberals and conservatives are supposed to argue and lay out their positions.  It’s the only way to ensure the minority voices are being heard.  The Executive Branch is supposed to butt heads with the Legislative and Judicial Branches.  That’s why we have separation of power.

Irish political philosopher Edmund Burke believed, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  No matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, have faith that good men and women will stand up, debate the issue, and put together immigration reform that is fair to all it affects.

Let me know what you think!  Please comment and cast your vote on my SOUNDOFF Web Blog below.

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May 31, 2010 - Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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