I may be late to the party on this one, but that was deliberate. I have held back opining on the new law for a couple of reasons. First, the initial reports of the law’s provisions had me concerned (as it has many in the American right). Secondly, and admittedly a little more important to me, was the Governor who signed it into law: Jan Brewer – previously known as a tax-hiking squish.
As an aside, there is no political reporter I trust more than Byron York. Two years ago, when much of the American right (including many of my good friends) fell into mass hysteria about an accusation John McCain aimed at Mitt Romney (McCain said Romney supported setting a date for American withdrawal from Iraq), York – practically alone among National Review writers – calmly examined the quotes in question and concluded, rightly, that McCain had a point.
In this case, York has painstakingly noted that the Arizona law will not do what so many of its critics claim – namely, allow the cops to stop anyone, anytime, anywhere and demand proof of citizenship or legal residence. As such, it’s actually a fine law, and very similar to law enforcement actions on this issue in Prince William County.
So why did so many think otherwise, and even worse, make comments on the law not knowing what was really in it? I see two reasons.
Arizona is nearly 3,000 miles from Prince William. Moreover, since the PWC controversy flared up at roughly the same time as the debate over President Bush’s Iraqi surge, it’s almost certain that no one in Washington was paying attention. So, many of the folks who went through this debate a few years back were largely ignored as this came to fruition in the desert. Had this been Virginia, Maryland, or another nearby state, the Prince William example would have played a starring role in the discussion, and much of the hysteria surrounding this would not have ensued.
The other reason is far more unfortunate and preventable, too many people in the chattering classes still pay attention to the New York Times. It was a Times columnist, Linda Greenhouse, who got the disinformation ball rolling on this by getting the law wrong (Mark Krikorian explains the error on The Corner). Please note that several major conservatives who have taken issue with the law did so after Greenhouse’s error (which she has since corrected – Corner again).
York himself noted the mistake so many of the law’s critics have made in his second Examiner column (here’s the link again).
From where I sit, Arizona is basically following Prince William’s example, in which case, I can fully support what they’re doing.