Whether you "like it or not" as one of our Lieutenant Governor candidates is fond of saying, Arizona’s tough new immigration law is a flash point in our national conversation on immigration and a catalyst for reform.

Despite tiptoeing ever-so-slowly into the punditocracy, two things have become readily apparent: (1) there is no indigestion for having to eat your own words; and (2) there is no penalty for making unfulfilled prognostications.  But like that phrase in most of our public servant oaths, there is often a little mental reservation. 

While noting that chances were slim for comprehensive immigration reform this year in my first Fox & Hounds Daily piece, it would have been prudent on my part to say it would not happen in 2010 unless there was some galvanizing event (i.e. the Mass Immigrant Marches of 2006 or the signing of Arizona’s SB 1070).

Whether you are for people having their papers in order when living or traveling in one of our bordering states, two immediate ramifications will be felt there.  First, the implementation of the kind of racial profiling Rep. Brian Bilbray embraced on national television recently (basically identifying people who don’t look or dress right). Second, community policing will take a big hit as people will be afraid to come forward to report crimes. But symbolically, it does one big thing as noted in the Los Angeles Times: the travesty of it will likely inspire Congress to act and develop a sensible new policy-and America will have Arizona to thank.

As Angelica Salas of CHIRLA asked at a recent Pat Brown Institute Immigration Panel, what kind of country do we want to be? Can we aspire to be both a nation of laws and immigrants-calling upon our national leadership to enforce the border, determine a new visa policy, and create a pathway to citizenship for the millions already here and part of mixed-status American families?  Or do we ignore the angels and go back down a xenophobic road we have traveled before? 

Part of Obama’s base is "Fired Up/Ready to Go" again as they were in his presidential race.  This was probably the last thing Republicans wanted to do going into a bruising Supreme Court nominee fight over the summer and still-to-be-fought November elections.  U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) may be upset that immigration reform is taking a front seat to a new national energy policy but he truly only has Arizona state Senator Russell Pearce to blame.  It should also come as no surprise that the leadership of the destination community for wearing flowers in your hair have called for a boycott of Arizona

Many of us shake our heads at the passage of such a misguided law (as well as the broken system that produced the frustration behind it) but comfort can be taken in knowing that comprehensive immigration reform is back on the national agenda.  In the meantime, to paraphrase that great Scott MacKenzie song, "If You’re Going to Arizona (Be Sure To Have Your Papers)."