Monday, May 14, 2007
On this day:

The wrong way to treat illegal aliens

From last Thursday's Mobile Press-Register:
MONTGOMERY -- Members of a House committee Wednesday appeared to be leaning toward passage of a bill that would allow law enforcement officials in Alabama to seize the property of illegal aliens. ...

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, is modeled on laws allowing police to seize the property of drug dealers. The legislation allows law enforcement to seize from illegal immigrants any property not needed for "basic living necessities," but gives law enforcement agencies broad scope in determining what is and isn't necessary.
Here's what the bill says (H/T Alablawg):
Property of a person present in this state who is in violation of the immigration laws of the United States, except property needed for the basic living necessities of the person as determined by the local law enforcement agency, acquired by the person directly or indirectly while in violation of the immigration laws of the United States shall be subject to forfeiture in the same manner as provided in Section 20-2-93 of the Code of Alabama 1975. The forfeiture shall be governed by and shall conform to the procedures set out in Section 28-4-286 through 28-4-290, Code of Alabama 1975, except as modified by Section 20-2-(h), Code of Alabama 1975.
I'm all for cracking down on illegal immigration, but to deprive hard-working people of the fruits of their labor strikes me as a terribly unjust way to go about it.

One of the basic tenets of the American creed is that government exists to protect property, not to take it away arbitrarily without just cause. As Adam Smith said in the Wealth of Nations:
The property which every man has in his own labour, as it is the original foundation of all other property, so it is the most sacred and inviolable.
Anytime government proposes to expand its authority to confiscate private property, we should be on our guard. I see no reason why we should be any less vigilant when the property to be confiscated belongs to illegal aliens.

Violating immigration laws and misrepresenting one's own immigration status are not insignificant offenses, but the punishment proposed under this bill seems vastly disproportionate to the harm these crimes inflict. Given the federal government's abdication of its responsibility to make and enforce immigration law, I can't fault state legislators for their desire to act. I just wish that in their rush to craft new laws to address the problem, they would pay a little more attention to the old one that says "Thou shalt not steal."