Jonah Goldberg

What if Arizona's "racial profiling" law worked perfectly?

In other words, what if Arizona police were always right? What if they could take a look at someone and, using race or ethnicity as just one of many factors (no advocate of profiling has ever suggested that race be the sole criterion), could pick out illegal immigrants from the crowd every time? Would that make it OK?

The reason I ask is that, to listen to opponents of the law from the president on down, the chief objection is that legal immigrants and citizens will be mistakenly singled out by law enforcement.

Here's President Obama on the law's ramifications: "You can imagine, if you are a Hispanic-American in Arizona -- your great grandparents may have been there before Arizona was even a state. But now, suddenly, if you don't have your papers and you took your kid out to get ice cream, you're going to be harassed. That's something that could potentially happen. That's not the right way to go."

Michelle Malkin

Never mind that this is a grotesque distortion of the law. Police have to have a reason other than suspicion of being an illegal immigrant -- a traffic violation, disorderly conduct, etc. -- to ask for your "papers" in the first place. Taking your kid to get ice cream isn't legal grounds for the cops to stop you.

But forget that. Aside from the concern that Hispanic-Americans buying ice cream will be harassed, the other main objection is that legal immigrants will need to carry their "papers."

As many others have observed, this is pretty thin gruel. Legal immigrants have been required under federal law to carry their papers for generations. If you're for that in theory but against it in practice, you're against enforcing any kind of immigration policy at all.

Which brings us back to racial profiling. Obama is just one of many leading liberals who favor affirmative action for certain groups. Their argument goes like this: Certain historically disadvantaged minorities such as blacks and Hispanics -- but not Asians or Jews -- need extra help in college admissions and in hiring. These preferred minorities can be sized up as deserving simply by looking at their skin color and maybe their last name.

Liberals insist that in such cases race is just one factor among many, though studies suggest race is often the key factor since so many of these decisions are made at the margin.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jonah Goldberg's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.