Friday, April 30, 2010

A rational (I hope) conversation...

...about the new illegal-immigrant law in Arizona.

Let's begin with a key point: I'm not going to engage in any rhetorical bashing about what is happening in Arizona; yes, I have an opinion about the new law, but I'm going to let a court (or two, maybe three) determine whether the toughest illegal-immigration law in the land passes legal muster.

Instead, I want to examine the fallout from the decision.

Higher-education officials in Arizona are on the defensive, and there is no reason why they should be. However, considering the general national enthusiasm for the law, there is ample reason for them to be worried.

I say they ought not be on the defensive because they played no direct role in the enactment of this legislation. However, not being on the defensive and not being afraid of its ramifications are not the same thing. It is understandable why students (or their families) could decide not to attend any college institution in the state of Arizona. If nothing else, opting not is a powerful form of protest. And if you understand anything about higher education, you realize that tuition dollars are more important than ever, and this is especially so at smaller institutions.

If there is one group that is on the defensive, it is law enforcement agencies throughout the state. On the one hand, they could find themselves compelled to ask about the status of any person they suspect is not in Arizona legally. Now, consider this -- can you really tell if someone is in this country legally just by looking at them? And would you want the responsibility to ask?

Of course, the wailing and gnashing of teeth on the political level is in high gear. Today, The New York Times is suggesting President Obama forcefully and immediately speak out against the law. As you consider whether he should (or whether he has already done that effectively), remember that the governor of Arizona signed changes to the law today that she says eliminates any potential for racial profiling.

There was an interesting protest that caught my attention that took place in Chicago, where the Cubs are hosting the Arizona Diamondbacks this weekend. The point of the protest, in my opinion, was misguided -- it urged sports fans to not attend events involving a team from Arizona, no matter where that event is taking place.

That's hogwash. Unless and until a sizable number of the players on any professional team from Arizona publicly acknowledge they support the law, there is no valid reason to not show up at a sports event involving an Arizona team.

And speaking of where athletes stand, it is not surprising that those in opposition to the new law are the ones making their voices heard.

As you can tell, a reasonable conversation about what has happened in Arizona is hard to come by. That's understandable -- the law is being viewed through an emotional lens; and whenever that situation is evident, reason is sure to be hard to find. Nevertheless, blaming college officials is unwise; but it is reasonable to assume that higher-education officials in Arizona are worried.

Demanding that politicians speak out in support or opposition of the law RIGHT NOW is unwise; but it is reasonable to assume that political and other leaders should make rational comments about the new law.

Calling upon citizens who want to be entertained to avoid events involving teams from Arizona is unwise; but expecting athletes to take a stand on what is happening is a reasonable expectation.

But let's also not forget that for the media the dramatic, the immediate, the raw emotion draws viewers, readers and listeners. So, guess what you're going to see more of?

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