Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Punishment before conviction: Proposition 100

Proposition 100: Bailable Offenses

Not content with leaving immigration policy to the Federal government and perhaps relishing the opportunity to oppress the powerless, hated Other, the mouth-breathing bigots and xenophobes in the Legislature have sent two amendments to the State Constitution to the ballot the goal of which is to erode the protections undocumented immigrants--so-called "illegals"--are guaranteed by State and Federal law.

This amendment to Article II, Section 22 of the Constitution of Arizona will deny bail to persons who have "entered or remained in the United States illegally" if they are suspected of "serious felony offenses as prescribed by the legislature."

Never mind that the state courts do not have jurisdiction over immigration matters, or that bail and immigration hearings are so different as to render this measure absurdly impractical. Bail law, as is proper in the country of a free people, is supposed to allow the accused, innocent until proven guilty, to remain free until conviction (at least in non-capital cases) unless there is pronounced risk of flight or danger to the community.

Immigration status is quite separate from flight risk, and being merely suspected of not having the proper visa, a minor civil offense and a victimless crime, is no evidence that one is likely to jump bail, despite the wrongheaded arguments going around that argue that not having a government permission slip is evidence for a tendency towards any imaginable mischief.

Furthermore, since, presumably, the suspected felons in question wouldn't have been previously found in a hearing to be in the country illegally, this measure would deprive individuals of their rights before they are proven guilty of anything. Presumption of innocence is one of the foundations of free society; this smells an awful lot like it conflicts with the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. Although it may have the upside of letting us put bigot bureaucrats away for explicitly violating 18 U.S.C. § 242, I'm voting "no" on Prop. 100.

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