There have been two remarkable episodes this week showing the contempt of two national political classes for their respective electorates and the former’s incredible distance from the concerns of the people they are supposed to serve. By now everyone is quite familiar with Brown’s gaffe referring to a life-long Labour voter as a “bigoted woman” for expressing vague concerns about the influx of eastern European immigrants into Britain. Pretty much everyone in Britain recognizes that Brown made a colossal blunder in saying this on the record, and the assumption is that Brown has likely cost himself huge numbers of votes in next week’s general election.
In fact, all that Brown did was say on the record what much of Britain’s political class thinks of disaffected British voters whose concerns, grievances and objections to the status quo in immigration policy are not addressed or taken seriously by any of the leading parties. That shared disdain leads many voters, many of them traditionally Labour voters, to vent their frustration by electing local councillors from marginal nationalist parties, and this in turn just reinforces the political class’ view that the voters’ objections are motivated mainly by racial resentment. As soon as Brown heard the woman mention immigrants, he probably concluded that he already knew everything about her and her views that he needed to know. He has since had to show contrition because the election is a week away and he has to contain the political damage, but he has already reminded many regular Labour voters what he thinks of them and their concerns.
What is remarkable is how freely Brownian contempt is being heaped on Arizona for its government’s attempt to get some kind of control on illegal immigration after the near-total failure of the federal government for twenty-five years to enforce the law and secure the southern border effectively. For decades, the federal government has failed the border states, and the border states have been left to pick up the tab for an incredibly poor regulated immigration system. In the absence of effective federal enforcement, border states have tried, mostly in vain, to cope with the consequences of mass immigration.
A few years ago, Michael Gerson and his former boss were chief among those proposing the world-of-both-worlds “reform” whose promise of enforcement was not to be trusted, whose guest-worker program was a transparent concession to corporations seeking cheap, exploitable, unprotected labor, and which would have made fools of anyone who went to the trouble to enter the country legally with its “Z visa.” Since that effort was derailed by significant popular resistance from across the political spectrum, Congress has so far not gone near the issue again because it is clear that the prevailing views in Congress are at odds with the views of much of the country.
Byron York has quoted the statute’s language to make clear what the law requires:
For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency…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…
So Gerson believes it is “dreadful” that law enforcement officers would run a check on the immigration status of someone already stopped for some other reason. York goes on to make clear that there would be no check on immigration status if the person has a valid driver’s license:
The law clearly says that if someone produces a valid Arizona driver’s license, or other state-issued identification, they are presumed to be here legally.
Unless there is another undesirable provision that critics of the law have failed to mention, it would seem that the only people who have reason to complain about this law are those who are here illegally and those who believe that immigration laws should simply not be enforced. This is one reason why Gerson’s objections ring so hollow: he insists that he favors enforcement of the law, but objects vehemently the moment someone attempts to enforce the law.