James Anderson writes from Tucson: Well, the wait is finally over and the US Supreme Court has ruled on Arizona’s anti-immigration law. As is usual with lawyers, the decision gives something to both sides. It is not illegal for Arizona police to stop a person suspected of being an illegal immigrant and ask him or her for papers. That is good news for the people living in the state. However, it is not a crime to take a job without having a visa and not to carry papers with you. So nothing can be done once it has been established that the person is an illegal immigrant. Is this an invitation to drug cartels to send more and more of their people to Arizona and then on to other states of the US?
President Barack Obama, desperate to drum up support in order to win in November, sees the Latino vote as critically important. Over two thirds of Latinos voted for him last time. That is why he announced recently that children brought to the US illegally could stay and eventually become citizens. Grateful parents and relatives are expected to support Obama when it matters.
The whole question of immigration is boiling up into a contest between those who believe that new migrants are unnecessary, given the parlous sate of the US economy, and those who welcome new eager workers. If you are a low paid worker yourself you are anti-immigrant. New arrivals take away your job in a tight labour market. If you are an employer you are keen on new workers. They can be paid less and probably work harder. So it is not a straight Democrat versus Republican contest. The Democrats welcome immigrants because they overwhelmingly vote for them and Republicans want to stop them coming in for the same and other reasons. If Mitt Romney is to win more of the blue collar vote, he needs to adopt a tough immigration policy. The downside of this is that it will encourage more Latinos to move into Obama’s camp. So it is a no win situation for the Republicans.
Arizona is effectively hamstrung. Once it has identified illegal immigrants it can do nothing about them. The state will have to find a way round this conundrum. Public anger will reach a fever pitch if the state is invaded by immigrants who know that they cannot be repatriated. The US, Canada and Mexico have a free trade association so this implies that labour can move around. The security situation on the Mexican side of the border is out of control. Drug cartels effectively hold sway. So it is not surprising that Mexicans, in this area, would prefer to move to the US.
The only rational answer to the immigration policy is for the economic development of the border region to take off. In order for that to happen the security situation has to become normal. However the Mexican government appears unable to contain the drug cartels. So the likelihood of an improvement in the security situation in the short term is small.
Arizona could solve the immigration problem if it were permitted to repatriate illegals. What is the likelihood of the Obama administration agreeing to that? Zero. So the problem will not be addressed by the government before the November election. A Republican President next January could act decisively. In the meanwhile bienvenido a los inmigrantes mexicanos ilegales. Or in plain English: keep coming hombres.