The changes are either neutral or for the better:
PHOENIX — Arizona lawmakers have approved several changes to the recently passed sweeping law targeting illegal immigration.
If Gov. Jan Brewer supports the changes, they will go into effect at the same time as the new law, 90 days from now.
The current law requires local and state law enforcement to question people about their immigration status if there’s reason to suspect they’re in the country illegally, and makes it a state crime to be in the United States illegally.
One change to the bill strengthens restrictions against using race or ethnicity as the basis for questioning and inserts those same restrictions in other parts of the law.
Changes to the bill language will actually remove the word “solely” from the sentence, “The attorney general or county attorney shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color or national origin.”
Another change replaces the phrase “lawful contact” with “lawful stop, detention or arrest” to apparently clarify that officers don’t need to question a victim or witness about their legal status.
These both seem like positive changes.
That first change (the removal of the word “solely”) is not given much context, but I believe the relevant language is here. The “complaints” in question appear to be complaints that an employer is knowingly employing an illegal; I don’t see the harm in requiring such complaints to be based on something besides race or national origin.
The second change addresses what had been my major problem with the law: a concern that illegal immigrants will be reluctant to call the police when victimized, because that would initiate a “contact” with law enforcement that could potentially result in an investigation of their immigration status. Victims of crime, especially violent crime, need to feel safe to contact law enforcement without worrying about being deported.
If you are inclined to disagree, consider: violent criminals often prey on illegals precisely because they know their crimes are less likely to be reported. So violent people get away with robberies, rapes, and other serious crimes because they prey on people who are scared to call the police and involve themselves with authorities.
This is analogous to one of the reasons I am against prison rape. In addition to being a moral wrong, prison rape gives a benefit to the prison rapist. When hard-liners chuckle and approve of prison rape, they often forget that while prison rape does harshly punish some prisoners, it rewards others. What’s more, the people it rewards are generally the worst of the worst, while the victims are generally less tough, more low-level criminals. When you approve of (or condone with laughter) the rape of the low-level criminals, you are condoning the toughest murderers getting their jollies by intimidating and sexually violating weaker people.
The same goes here. When I prosecute a gang murder or attempted murder, I couldn’t care less about the legal status of the victim or witnesses — and I have told people that more than once. You can take a tough line and say that every police contact with an illegal can and should be a chance to deport that illegal. After all, the victim is illegal! But if you hold fast to that principle, you are discouraging the reporting of violent crimes, which ultimately benefits the violent criminal.
Arizona lawmakers see this, and have made a good change. I applaud it.