If Arizona's new immigration law is supposed to be the best thing since warm tortillas, why do supporters have to prop it up by engaging in falsehoods and scare tactics? Let me count the ways:
The law bans racial profiling. Truth: Racial profiling is already banned by federal statute, yet it happens. The Arizona law requires that once local and state police make contact with someone over an alleged infraction, they must determine legal status if they have "reasonable suspicion" that the person is in the country illegally. It is naive to assume an officer can make that call without taking race into account.
Arizona is being invaded. The law is a cry for help. Truth: No, it's a claim to victimhood. Our society is full of people who duck responsibility for their actions by playing the victim. Now states are doing it. Arizona has illegal immigrants because Arizonans hire them. Take away the "help wanted" sign, and they won't come.
The federal government is doing nothing to stop illegal immigration. Truth: The Obama administration deported more illegal immigrants last year than the Bush administration did in its final year in office. There are 20,000 Border Patrol agents, more than any other federal law enforcement agency. The Border Patrol budget was $3 billion last year, and it has increased almost tenfold since 1992. Not exactly an "open border" policy.
The scope and intent of the law have always been clear. Truth: Supporters like to forget that there have been two versions of the law. The first was defective and had to be fixed one week after it was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer.
The Arizona law is no different than laws in other states, such as California, that require police to 'cooperate' with Border Patrol officers and allow them to inquire as to citizenship. Truth: (1) Cooperating with the Border Patrol isn't the same as impersonating Border Patrol agents; (2) California Penal Code 834b pertains to "any person who is arrested." That's the key difference. In Arizona, you need not be under arrest to be interrogated.
The Arizona law is a carbon copy of federal law. So it can't be unconstitutional. Truth: The problem is how the law will be implemented. Under existing federal statutes, immigrants may have their citizenship questioned but only by federal agents. Under the Arizona law, that power is extended to local police. Many legal scholars believe this to be clearly unconstitutional because immigration policy is a federal responsibility and not something that can be done piecemeal by individual states.
The presence of immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, in a given town, city, county or state inevitably leads to more crime, i.e., burglary, assault, drunk driving, rape, murder, etc. Truth: For a variety of reasons, as the immigrant population increases, crime rates go down. For one thing, immigrants aren't as bold and defiant as people think. Various researchers who studied the rise in immigration during the 1990s concluded that cities with increased numbers of immigrants had the most significant drops in crime rates.
Americans show identification to cash checks, board planes, drive cars, etc. This is no different. Truth: In such transactions, we're asking for a privilege or a benefit and we willingly identify ourselves to get it. It's a quid pro quo. In Arizona, where you can be grilled for attending a house party with loud music or being a passenger in a vehicle, the "privilege" Latinos are asking for is simply to breathe. This shouldn't come at a price.
Latinos won't be racially profiled. But if they were, it would be justified given that most illegal immigrants come from Mexico and the rest of Latin America. Truth: Supporters can't have it both ways, insisting that a practice won't occur while justifying it as logical and thus likely to occur.
This law makes Arizonans safer. Truth: Quite the opposite. By sending illegal immigrants underground, Arizona has created a pool of ready-made victims who can be preyed upon at will because they won't report crimes to police. Scoundrels, thieves and predators will pounce.
If supporters of the Arizona law truly believe in this legislation, they should ditch their list of disingenuous talking points and start speaking honestly. It would do wonders for their credibility -- not to mention the credibility of the dubious law they support.
Navarrette's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE