Paul A. Ibbetson
Illegal immigration: is it kind to be cruel?
By Paul A. Ibbetson
May 7, 2010

What the media coins the "tough" new Arizona immigration law, SB1070, forwarded by Governor Jan Brewer, has once again pushed to the forefront the argument of, "just what is the proper course of action when dealing with illegal immigration?" The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says the new law is unconstitutional. Ultra-liberal Mayor Gavin Newsom of the sanctuary city San Francisco is working to boycott Arizona in an effort to force the state to scrap the new law. In what has to be seen as a bizarre political move, Arizona Democrat Congressman Raul Grijalva has decided to boycott his own state.

Whether it is the ACLU, liberal mayors in San Francisco, or an Arizona Congressmen who wishes to make his next political race very interesting, the overarching theme is that it is cruel to enforce immigration law and kind for the borders to remain open. To believe this, does one has to redefine those terms? You decide.

In the back pages of the New York Times, law professor Kris Kobach, who helped draft the new Arizona law, dispels the case for harassment in the state's requirement of immigrants to show proper documents. Remember, this is not groundbreaking as it has been federal law since 1940 that aliens carry registration documents. Kobach outlines the state's restraint on police authority in requesting such documents. It must be during proper investigations after a totality of circumstances leads an officer to a reasonable suspicion to make these requests. Every day U.S. citizens are asked for identification documents during police investigations. Ever been pulled over for speeding? Filed a police report on any event? Americans are neither shocked nor do they find it cruel when asked by the police for identification or other documents. Because Arizona requires one to be a legal resident to get a driver's license, in any situation that involves a question of immigration, police must presume that a person with a valid Arizona driver's license has legal status. How very kind of Arizona to do that.

While the legal opposition to Arizona's new law is an empty argument, the basis for it — the question of kindness versus cruelty — still remains. Is it cruel or kind to deny states the right to enforce their own laws? It would seem that those that promote illegal immigration in the U.S. have decided that citizens of Arizona are acceptable casualties to drug dealers, human traffickers, gang activity, and the list goes on. Phoenix, Arizona: Hostage Capital of the U.S. is another title of distinction that can be directly tied to illegal immigration. Is it cruel to say that Arizona's fate is Arizona's business, or is it kind for a mayor in San Francisco to attempt to dictate the state's laws through strong-arm tactics?

Lastly, is it kind or cruel to perpetuate the shadow class of illegal immigrants, a group whose lack of standard legal identification and lawful entry places them as potential criminals and terrorists at worst, and as an unwarranted drain to the economy at best?

As it stands today, it appears to me that it is through a series of cruelties that both the U.S. citizen and the illegal immigrant attempt to find and hold on to the bounties of the American dream. Both sides suffer through a system that promotes illegality, victimization, and distrust. So, the question remains, is it kind to be cruel?

© Paul A. Ibbetson


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Paul A. Ibbetson

Dr. Paul A. Ibbetson is a former Chief of Police of Cherryvale, Kansas, and member of the Montgomery County Drug Task Force. Paul received his Bachelor's and Master's degree in Criminal Justice at Wichita State University, and his PhD. in sociology at Kansas State University. Paul is the author of several books and is also the radio host of the Kansas Broadcasting Association's 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 award winning, Conscience of Kansas airing across the state. Visit his website at For interviews or questions, please contact


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