The XX Factor

Arizona “Papers Please” Law Temporarily Blocked

Good, if unsurprising news: The Obama administration won Round 1 of the battle against the Arizona law targeting people that could be perceived as illegal immigrants for harassment if they don’t happen to be carrying proof that they’re not illegal immigrants. Judge Susan R. Bolton halted enforcement of the law while she hears the arguments, indicating that the state of Arizona’s case probably isn’t going to go so well for them.

In all honesty, Arizona Republicans should be thanking the Obama administration for aggressively fighting this law. If the law never goes into effect, Republicans get much of the benefits of scapegoating immigrants this election season while not being blamed for the inevitable fallout if this law ever starts getting enforced. Voters probably like this law better in theory than in practice, in other words. If the law never goes into effect, voters won’t have to contemplate spending tax money fighting off the inevitable lawsuits when the wrong people are inevitably targeted. Nor will they have to live with the consequences of putting the police in a situation in which they have to harass witnesses to crimes for their papers instead of simply taking their testimony. Or worse, having to give up investigating certain crimes at all because all the witnesses who were out and about without papers will flee the scene.

What’s especially troubling to me is the apparent cynicism of those who are pushing this ridiculous law in the first place. Arizona Republicans practically seemed to be reading off a chart: “Hmmmm, historically speaking, bad economies tend to produce nativist, racist fervor. We should get in on the ground floor of that, drum up some votes.” And most of the reaction to the Obama administration’s swift response is to read it as strictly a political move, as if the Democrats are betting on anti-racism because the Republicans have tied up the racist vote. A small part of me wants to believe there’s an off-chance that the administration could be moving so rapidly not out of pure political calculation, but because it might just be the right thing to do.