Obama Repeats the Big Arizona Immigration Enforcement Law Lie; Who in the Press Will Call Him on It?

An unbylined Associated Press item carried at NPR quotes President Obama as follows about Arizona's recently enacted immigration law-enforcement measure:

ObamaQuoteOnAZimmigrationLaw042910

The president is repeating a blatant falsehood about the Arizona law that has gained instant currency in the establishment press and leftist circles. It has no basis in fact, or in the legislation Grand Canyon State Governor Jan Brewer recently signed.

You don't have to go any further than the 20th line of the law (downloadable at this Constitution Law Prof Blog post) to see that Obama and his fellow critics are wrong:

AZlawImmigrationPage1Lines14to26

Kris Kobach at the Washington Times, Byron York at the Washington Examiner, and Andrew McCarthy at National Review have all addressed what "lawful contact" means and how it apples to the Arizona law:

(Kobach)

The law requires aliens to carry identification that they weren't already required to carry. On the contrary, the law simply penalizes aliens who fail to carry the registration documents that federal law already requires them to keep on their person.

... The law only kicks in when a police officer already has made a "lawful contact" with a person, such as stopping him for breaking another law. The most likely contact is during the issuance of a speeding ticket. The law does not require the officer to begin questioning a person about his immigration status or to do anything the officer would not otherwise do.

Only after a stop is made, and subsequently the officer develops reasonable suspicion on his own that an immigration law has been violated, is any obligation imposed.

(York)

Has anyone actually read the law? Contrary to the talk, it is a reasonable, limited, carefully-crafted measure designed to help law enforcement deal with a serious problem in Arizona. Its authors anticipated criticism and went to great lengths to make sure it is constitutional and will hold up in court. It is the criticism of the law that is over the top, not the law itself.

The law requires police to check with federal authorities on a person's immigration status, if officers have stopped that person for some legitimate reason and come to suspect that he or she might be in the U.S. illegally.

... What fewer people have noticed is the phrase "lawful contact," which defines what must be going on before police even think about checking immigration status. "That means the officer is already engaged in some detention of an individual because he's violated some other law," says Kris Kobach ...

... As far as "reasonable suspicion" is concerned, there is a great deal of case law dealing with the idea, but in immigration matters, it means a combination of circumstances that, taken together, cause the officer to suspect lawbreaking. It's not race -- Arizona's new law specifically says race and ethnicity cannot be the sole factors in determining a reasonable suspicion.

(McCarthy)

Maybe that’s the Obama administration’s problem with Arizona’s new law: It is too short (16 pages), too clear, and too reflective of the popular will. Unlike the social scientists in Nancy Pelosi’s federal laboratory, state lawmakers didn’t need to pass the law first in order to find out what was in it. Essentially, it criminalizes (as a state misdemeanor) something that is already illegal (namely, being present in the United States in violation of federal law), and it directs law-enforcement officers to, yes, enforce the law. Democrats and their media echo-chamber regard this as radical; for most of us, it is what’s known as common sense.

... The law does not give police any new basis to stop and detain someone. Police may not inquire into immigration status unless they have a “lawful” basis for stopping the person in the first place. And even then, the police officer must have “reasonable suspicion” before attempting to determine whether the person is lawfully present. And that suspicion must be generated by something beyond race and ethnicity.

A developing back-up meme on the left is that others (e.g., witnesses, crime victims, or spectators) are also often involved in "lawful contacts." Okay, but that doesn't change the fact that "reasonable suspicion" as defined above still has to exist. So what's their point?

There can be no honest discussion about the merits or demerits of the law until those attempting to make arguments against it admit to the realities the three cited columnists have described. The large majority of establishment press coverage of the law has thus far been all about preventing such honest discussion, and has been as intellectually bankrupt as just about any I've ever seen on any topic.

At the Corner, here's Andy McCarthy's conclusion:

The people who are complaining about this law almost certainly either have not read it or are demagogues who would make the same absurd claims no matter what the law said.

The vast majority of the establishment press "covering" this story is either one, the other, or both. So too is this nation's president.

My prediction: Either we won't ever see or hear a word from them about Obama's blatant falsehood, or someone will quietly wait until news-dump time this weekend or possibly next to off-handedly note it. We'll see.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.