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No Papers, Please...

Even as controversy rages around the nation over the new Arizona immigration law, one of our state legislators has apparently decided to try to drag Michigan into a similar fray.

Rep. Kim Meltzer, R-Clinton Township, said her bill would allow police to request proof of citizenship from people who are stopped and questioned on another offense, such as a traffic violation or selling fraudulent identity documents. Officers would have the authority to arrest people who can't prove their legal status.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this.

Don't get me wrong. I have firm thoughts about the Arizona measure: It's racist, divisive and the worst kind of nativism. I don't see how they need it in Arizona, and we sure as heck don't need a knock-off of it here. That said, the Arizona law is also a reaction to a legitimate issue that has been percolating in that part of the country for years, that is, illegal immigration.

But since when did Clinton Township become a hotbed for undocumented workers? Who's so desperate to flee their native land, to settle in Macomb County, that they're sneaking en masse past security blindspots in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to get to Clinton Township? How does a proposed bill like this, divorced as it is from any semblance of a real political need of people in this region, do anything but send more dog-whistle calls to knee-jerk reactionaries who want to convince themselves that their half-assed surface judgments deserve to be codified into law? How does this serve even one person who voted for this Kim Meltzer?

I can't see that it does it all. It strikes me as being reflective of phony outrage, just a sad attempt to re-make in Michigan an odious bit of red-herring legislation. Worse, while I question how seriously responsible leaders will take something like this, there's no doubt in my mind that it would be just another tool to marginalize and harass select groups. And when you consider all the very necessary work that our state lawmakers duck and dodge every day, from forging sensible taxation policies to making hard budget choices, proposals like this seem that much more of an obscene waste.

Our problem is not with people tip-toeing across borders and into metro Detroit or Michigan. If Meltzer and these other legislators really want to help, maybe they should worry more about, say, keeping jobs in the state than with keeping people out.

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