December 28, 2008

Last year, Arizona enacted one of those anti-immigration laws that actually tried to address the employer side of the equation, ostensibly cracking down on the businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

But it seems there's a been a hitch -- namely, so far not a single employer has been charged:

When the state's employer-sanctions law took effect nearly a year ago, it threatened to shut down businesses that hired illegal workers.

But not a single employer has been taken to court in Arizona, mainly because the landmark law is too difficult to enforce, authorities say.

In Maricopa County, where the law led to raids on a dozen businesses and the arrest of 159 workers and a manager, investigators have not been able to assemble enough evidence showing that employers actually knew the arrested workers were illegal, which the sanctions law requires.

Of course, the solution preferred by Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas is to go back to the Legislature and get even more enforcement powers so he can investigate these companies more thoroughly.

But then, we're talking about a prosecutor so prone to abusing his discretionary powers that he recently charged one of the county supervisors with 118 felony criminal counts related to his poorly filed county paperwork -- a bizarre case that has alienated the rest of the Board of Supervisors and has left the local newspapers' editorial pages shaking their collective heads. The Arizona Republic characterizes it as "raw political payback" that is simply "beyond the pale," not to mention "malicious and predatory."

Meanwhile, Thomas' bosom buddy, the county's power-mad nativist sheriff, Joe Arpaio, has been castigated by the state's civil-rights advisory board for his gross, ongoing abuses in rounding up every Latino in sight:

A state civil-rights panel is recommending that, because of racial-profiling complaints, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors end a contract with the federal government that allows the county Sheriff's Office to enforce immigrations laws.

The Arizona Civil Rights Advisory Board also is asking federal officials in Washington, D.C., to investigate the Sheriff's Office for possible civil-rights violations during the enforcement of immigration laws. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon made a similar request earlier this year.

Indeed, a federal investigation of Arpaio -- who has ignored court orders, created insane conditions in his jails, arrested citizens for merely applauding at public meetings, and flagrantly attacked Latinos' civil rights -- is long overdue.

But so is the need for Arizonans -- along with everyone else -- to recognize that the "we just need to enforce the laws we have on the books" approach is misbegotten from the start, because the laws we have on the books are not just grotesquely ineffective, they are themselves misbegotten in their very conception. It's time for real immigration reform that doesn't hand over police-state powers to prosecutors in the overzealous pursuit of people we should be making citizens of instead of jailing and deporting.

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