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"ID, please" a truly alien import to the US

05-24-2010 11:38 BJT

By Barry Cunningham

"We are all Arizonians!" declared Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska and vice-presidential candidate now reveling in her role as the Evita Peron of the American far right.

Palin's anti-immigrant rabble rousing reflects growing support in the US for a new Arizona law that requires law enforcement officers to check the ID and immigration status of anyone suspected of committing a crime in the state.

In poll after poll, nearly 60 percent of Americans say they support the Arizona law.

Ordinary Chinese people might wonder: What's wrong with that? Doesn't China have its own crime problem with illegal immigrants? The nation regularly deports illegal aliens suspected to be drug smugglers, prostitutes or human organ traders.

In fact, the Arizona law might work in China, but not in the US, where it hasn't even been enforced yet. That's mainly because US citizens resent the idea of anyone being required to carry an ID card.

It's easier to catch illegal aliens here because China doesn't deal with the niceties of personal privacy. If you're stopped by the cops and asked to show your ID, you better have one or go to "drink tea" at the local police station.

China has its shengfenzheng (ID card) and more than 100 other nations also have compulsory ID cards. The US is one of the few countries on Earth with no national ID card.

Personally, I like it that way. The essence of individual liberty, as Louis Brandeis, a famous Supreme Court justice, once said, is "the right to be let alone." But the personal freedom to live your entire life "off the grid" of official government identification helps explain why there are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the shadows of the US, 10 percent of them Chinese

It also helps explain why the Obama administration felt it necessary to "apologize" in recent comments to China for the Arizona law, which the president condemns as ethnic discrimination and racial profiling of Hispanics.

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