The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology.

Arizona patriots have spent, and apparently will continue to spend, enormous amounts of money, to track, arrest, try, jail and deport illegal immigrants. In addition, the ongoing legal costs to create and defend in court, the various anti-immigration laws, are substantial.

All this money is spent because of the perceived economic drain on legal taxpayers, for schools, medical facilities and other welfare and human services support programs, the belief illegal immigrants take jobs from American citizens and the belief illegal immigrants are responsible for illegal drugs in Arizona.

An Arizona law (mostly overturned) would have allowed police to demand proof of legal residence from those stopped or arrested, when there was “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country illegally.

What constitutes “reasonable suspicion”? What factors, for instance in a traffic stop, would give a police officer “reasonable suspicion” that a person was an illegal alien? Skin color? Accent? Are white people exempt? And if the officers “reasonable suspicion” were wrong, would an innocent person be detained? Will every person in Arizona now be required to carry official citizenship papers or a birth certificate, (ala Nazi Germany) in case a police officer has a “reasonable suspicion about him/her?

Pro-immigrant groups say Arizona’s expensive efforts merely are a manifestation of bigotry, and are not supported by economic considerations. For instance, the words and actions of Sheriff Joe Arpaio from Maricopa County, Arizona do bear a strong resemblance to the words and actions of “Bull” Connor, the notorious bigot from Birmingham, Alabama, who claimed he merely enforced Alabama’s segregation laws.

With all the emotional shouting, facts are not being heard. Perhaps it all begins with a simple question: What is the real difference between an illegal immigrant and a legal immigrant? While much has changed recently, a REPORT completed for the year 2004 is instructive. Summarized, it indicates that on balance, illegal immigrants provide an overall economic benefit for Arizona.

While we’ve heard no outcry against legal immigrants, it’s may be possible illegal immigrants are even more beneficial. They are more likely to be of working age, more likely to work (they came here to earn money) and possibly less likely to commit crimes (for fear of deportation).

A chart on p. 58 of the above report says: “Fiscal costs of immigrants in 2004 were an estimated $1.4 billion. Tax revenues attributable to immigrants as workers were approximately $2.4 billion, resulting in a net fiscal gain of approximately $940 million.

It is quite common, when a nation experiences difficult economic times, for the citizens of that nation to look for scapegoats and especially to develop xenophobia. I suspect that is what has happened in Arizona and in the several other states considering tough, anti-alien laws. It’s become so crazy, some Republicans want to deny citizenship to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants!

Sadly, during times of stress, some “patriots” forget our heritage: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore; send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.“ Shall we return the Statue of Liberty?

Or better yet, perhaps we simply should stop making the path to citizenship so darn difficult.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity