Too Good to Check

By Mark Krikorian on April 27, 2010

I have pity on Linda Greenhouse's students at Yale Law School. The former New York Times Supreme Court correspondent has a column on the Arizona immigration law in her old paper peddling all the usual cliches about Nazism, apartheid, blah, blah, blah. But what's hilarious is that Greenhouse, the "Senior Research Scholar in Law, Knight Distinguished Journalist-in-Residence, and Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law," based her whole column on the wrong version of the bill.

She wrote this:

And in case the phrase "lawful contact" makes it appear as if the police are authorized to act only if they observe an undocumented-looking person actually committing a crime, another section strips the statute of even that fig leaf of reassurance. "A person is guilty of trespassing," the law provides, by being "present on any public or private land in this state" while lacking authorization to be in the United States — a new crime of breathing while undocumented.

Unfortunately, this whole "trespassing" thing, on which Greenhouse bases her outraged piece, is from an earlier Senate version of the bill, rather than the version actually signed by the governor. So the law doesn't just make it "appear as if the police are authorized to act only if they observe an undocumented-looking person actually committing a crime," it actually does that.

Sure, anyone can make a mistake, but this is a pretty basic thing to get wrong. When you go to the bill's web page, and click on "bill versions" you see there are three different versions — introduced, Senate engrossed, and House engrossed (the last of which is the one that was enacted). If you were the "Senior Research Scholar in Law," let alone the "Knight Distinguished Journalist-in-Residence," not to mention the "Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law," don't you think you'd want to make sure which version was actually passed by both houses and signed by the governor before you started quoting from it?

Ah, but that would interfere with publishing this nugget of her Senior and Distinguished wisdom:

So what to do in the meantime? Here’s a modest proposal. Everyone remembers the wartime Danish king who drove through Copenhagen wearing a Star of David in support of his Jewish subjects. It’s an apocryphal story, actually, but an inspiring one. Let the good people of Arizona — and anyone passing through — walk the streets of Tucson and Phoenix wearing buttons that say: I Could Be Illegal.


After this was posted, the Times issued a correction:

An earlier version of this Op-Ed essay referred incorrectly to the provisions of the new Arizona immigration statute. The version of the bill signed by the governor no longer includes a section under which undocumented immigrants would be guilty of trespassing for being on Arizona soil.