The new Arizona immigration law authorizes any police officer who has “reasonable suspicion” that someone might be in this country illegally to demand that the person show documents to prove his right to be here. In other words, “Your papers, please?”
And where’s that “anti-big-government” movement we’ve been hearing so much about about? Nowhere, as far as I can tell. The Arizona “your-papers” law doesn’t seem to be on the list of Tea Party grievances. Jacob Sullum at Reason Hit & Run objects to the law, but a scan of the Volokh Conspiracy and Instapundit came up with only one nasty reference each to people criticizing “your-papers-please” and no criticism of the underlying statute. You might have thought that libertarians would be at least as appalled by this unprecedented extension of state power as they are over red-light cameras, but apparently not.
Steve Benen has it right: “It’s almost as if the right-wing crowd is only offended by government abuses when they’re imaginary.”
Update Marco Rubio (who needs Cuban votes) has decided for consistency with the principles of limited government on this point. Jeb Bush, too. That makes three Republicans from Florida, zero from the rest of the country.
Second update And, weakly, Lindsey Graham, who says (1) the Arizona approach isn’t the best; (2) it’s understandable that Arizonans want to do something if Washington won’t fix it; and (3) Washington isn’t ready to fix it until at least 2012. (In fact, Graham threatens to filibuster his own energy/climate bill unless Harry Reid promises to take immigration off the table for this session of Congress.) So his position is that Arizona’s plan is a natural reaction to Congressional inaction, and that he wants inaction to continue for at least another two years. That’s way short of denouncing an outrageous expansion of state power with the sort of fury the wingers reserve for imaginary threats such as “socialism,” gun confiscation, the Fairness Doctrine, and death panels.
Note that the harassment issue is only half the problem. The other half is that the law as written makes it impossible for those here illegally to complain if they’re crime victims, or to testify if they see crimes against others, without risking arrest and deportation. Creating a class of unprotected victims would be a nightmare for crime control.