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There’s Nothing “Tough” About Arizona’s Mean-Spirited, Likely Unconstitutional, Anti-Immigration Law

Why are some reporters describing Arizona’s ugly, racially divisive, likely unconstitutional anti-immigration law as "tough"?  There’s nothing "tough" about making the failure to carry immigration documents a crime (meaning people in the country legally are committing a crime if they forget to take papers with them when they leave home) or watering down the Fourth Amendment to allow police officers to detain people based on mere "suspicion" that they are in the country illegally (hmmm, I wonder how they’ll tell which people look "suspicious"?).

There’s nothing "tough" about appealing to xenophobia, racism, and the ugliest aspects of human nature–yet the New York Times, Washington Post (print edition), and even Think Progress are using that word to describe the new law.  Think Progress is quoting someone else’s description, but I still question the uncritical use of this word to describe the law.  "Tough" is generally considered a compliment.  No one loses elections for being tough on crime, tough on terrorism, tough on immigration.  But this law has nothing to do with toughness.  It is likely unconstitutional, for multiple reasons.  It is a despicable attempt to divide Arizonans along racial and ethnic lines.

Will all the rightwingers who are concerned about big government taking away our freedoms now speak up on behalf of legal immigrants, even citizens, who will now have to live in fear in Arizona?

Jason has it right: this is a "police-state immigration law".  There’s nothing "tough" about it, and media observers ought to stop paying it this undeserved compliment.

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Chris Edelson

Chris Edelson

Chris is a lawyer and professor at American University who writes frequently about current political and media issues. His writing has also been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Metroland (Albany, NY), and at