Rove, Karl, Newsweek
Byline: Karl Rove
Why is Obama hyperventilating?
President Obama is using the new Arizona immigration law to advance a central White House preoccupation: his reelection. At a town-hall meeting in Iowa last April, the president warned Hispanic-Americans that the Arizona statute would open them up to being "harassed" when "you took your kid out to get ice cream." In remarks at a White House Cinco de Mayo reception, he argued that Arizona's law would "undermine fundamental principles," turning Latinos "into subjects of suspicion and abuse." But will Latinos in Arizona be routinely tormented?
Even a quick reading of the statute shows that police can question someone about his or her immigration status only if three conditions are met. First, there has to have been a "lawful stop, detention, or arrest" to enforce another law. Second, during the course of that stop, detention, or arrest, a "reasonable suspicion" has to exist that "the person is an alien." And third, law enforcement "may not consider race, color, or national origin--except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution." This is a tight and reasonable standard.
The Arizona law is so narrowly drawn that it's hard to see how it will affect many people. Those whom it does concern will already have been stopped, detained, or arrested for other lawful purposes. Given Obama's hyperventilation about the law, it's fair to ask: what is Washington's standard for allowing federal law enforcement to ask about immigration status?
When my office put this question to Customs and Border Protection (CPB), we were pointed to "Securing America's Borders at Ports of Entry," a document from the CBP's Office of Field Operations. It says that before asking a person's immigration status, "CBP personnel must effectively blend their own observational techniques and interviewing abilities with situational awareness." This is a lower, less-precise standard than the Arizona law. So if the president considers the Arizona law racist, what does he consider the federal standard? If Obama believes the strict Arizona conditions are likely to lead to racial profiling, what about federal guidelines his administration now enforces?
The Arizona bill's passage in an election year provides a racial wedge to inflame tensions between Latinos and Republicans. …