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Message From Arizona: Don't Tread On Me

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Does Barack Obama know what’s best for every American?

Does Washington know better than Arizona what’s good for Arizonans?

President Obama’s criticism last Friday of a piece of Arizona state legislation – criticism that came before the Governor had even made a decision about the bill – is further evidence that, for him, the needs and preferences of the individual states are rather irrelevant. Yet it is this very sort of arrogant disregard for the states that led to Arizona’s controversial new illegal immigration bill in the first place, and the President’s remarks serve to rub yet more salt into a wound that has been festering for years.

The new statute empowers local law enforcement agents to stop and check the immigration status of anybody they suspect of being in the country illegally. It is by far the toughest measure against illegal immigration ever to be proposed in the United States, and according to a Rasmussen poll from last Wednesday, April 21, it is supported by 70% of Arizona voters.

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But the Rasmussen organization also discovered some other important details about the attitudes of Arizona voters, details that have been largely overlooked. Yes, 70% of Arizona voters support this tough new measure. Yet 53% of them also have concerns that in the process of enforcing the new law and identifying and deporting illegal immigrants, the civil rights of some U.S. citizens would end up being violated.

This is to say that, while a majority of Arizonans are concerned about civil rights violations being entailed in the law’s enforcement, an even bigger majority nonetheless view the law as necessary. Is this a contradiction, or some sort of breakdown in logic? No, not really. Not if you’ve lived in the Southwestern U.S. and you’ve watched this border state drama play-out over the past twenty years or so, as Washington politicians wring their hands, criticize the citizenry, and often just look the other way.

The polling data, strange as it may seem, articulate an important message. “We didn’t want it to come to this point,” Arizona is saying to Washington. “We want a free and open society, yes, but in order to achieve this we must remain a society where everyone plays by the rules. You have failed to uphold our nation’s rules, Washington, and as a result our free and open society is slipping away…”

This sense of society “slipping away” has been mounting for years in the American Southwest. It’s not just about the bankrupting of hospitals and public schools and public social services agencies by illegal immigrants and their children. And it’s not simply a matter of “racism,” as Obama partisans, ACORN enthusiasts, and “Chicano’s Por La Causa” members would suggest.

It’s about illegal immigrant “advocates” and “activists” flagrantly parading in American streets, “demanding” that America treat them better and more “fairly.” It’s about American police officers and private citizens being murdered in cold blood by illegal immigrants, and American politicians and law enforcement agencies being either unwilling, or unable, to do anything about it.

I experienced first-hand California’s “Proposition 187,” the 1994 statewide ballot initiative that sought to cut-off social services to illegal immigrants. In its early stages, the initiative barely got noticed among California’s citizenry.

But when illegal immigrants’ rights advocates began demonstrating in the streets, some literally “parking” big rig trucks on LA freeways and blocking rush-hour traffic for hours on end as a means of “protesting” the ballot measure, the citizens woke up, saw how they were being pushed around by those who weren’t authorized to be in their country in the first place, and then overwhelmingly passed the initiative at the ballot box in November that year.

I experienced first-hand Phoenix, Arizona’s illegal immigrants’ rights back in 2006 and 2007. I remember vividly the march past the offices of U.S. Senator Jon Kyl, and the demonstrators who stood outside his office shouting through a bullhorn “come out here and talk to us, Senator Kyl…you represent us, too..”

Since that time, no less than three Phoenix city police officers have been killed on-duty by illegal immigrants. Most recently, a rancher from the rural southern Arizona town of Douglas was murdered at the hands of an illegal immigrant. Robert Krentz had a reputation of being a “good Samaritan” to illegal immigrants stuck along the roadside while attempting to cross the desert. But that didn’t stop an illegal immigrant from gunning-down Krentz and robbing him, as he tended his own land back on March 30th.

Yes, a free and open society is slipping away, and the problem is not easily defined by Republican, Democrat, conservative and liberal categories. But the problem is very real. And Arizonans will have it addressed – one way, or another.

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