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Arizona Passes Harsh Anti-Immigrant Legislation

On Friday April 23, Republican Gov. of Arizona Jan Brewer signed state Senate Bill 1070, the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.” The bill is perhaps the most blatantly anti-immigrant in the country and has caused outrage both in the U.S. and internationally.

Guatemalan Vice President Rafael Estrada said the law "is a step back for those migrants who have fought" for their rights. Guatemala's Foreign Relations Department decried the measure in a statement saying "it threatens basic notions of justice.”

The bill was drafted with help from Michael Hethmon, general counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, who has links to white supremacy groups and the notorious Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. It is not only unconstitutional, (immigration policy must be a uniform policy nation-wide), but also takes a step in turning Arizona into an anti-immigrant police state that legalizes racial profiling. If the bill is enforced, it will:

  • require immigrants to documents stating their immigration status at all times;
  • allow local police to ask the immigration status of anyone for whom they have “reasonable suspicion” of being undocumented, a policy which will foster racial profiling and fear among the Latino community - those in the United States “irregularly” would be turned over to immigration enforcement officers and legal immigrants and permanent residents that do not carry their ID could be fined $500 and jailed for six months;
  • openly target those who hire irregular immigrant workers and knowingly transport them;
  • give citizens the right to press charges against police officers they believe are not upholding their immigration duties.

Hundreds of organizations from around the country have urged Gov. Brewer to veto this bill, through letters, publications and protests. The Arizona Capitol has been a hot spot for days now, this Monday while the state Senate debated prayer groups, hunger strikers and protesters comparing the bill to police state-style roundups, a few stating that it resembled an “authoritarian government.” Nine activists chained themselves to the door of the Arizona Capitol in protest of the Bill.

The day the bill was signed, President Obama stated his lack of support: "Our failure to act responsible at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others. That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe."

Members of Congress such as Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, have urged Brewer to veto the bill, arguing that it unconstitutionally authorizes discrimination.

Others view the bill as an unfortunate response to ineffective federal law and Congress’ inaction on the issue. Democratic leader Jorge Luis Garcia commented that the bill "is exactly why the federal government must act on immigration reform. We cannot have states creating a jigsaw puzzle of immigration laws. This bill opens the doors to racial profiling with the provision that allows an officer to ask for citizenship papers from someone who only looks illegal."

The Republican party has also been divided on the issue, as some members admit the law is unconstitutional. Supporters of the Act view the measure as a way for local police officers to be able to combat irregular immigration, while still protecting the civil rights of citizens and legal residents. Hethmon claims lawmakers from other four other states have approached him asking for advice on how they can do the same thing where they live.

See also:

"D.C. Council to consider boycotting Arizona to protest immigration law," Washington Post, April 28, 2010

"EE.UU. indaga si nueva ley es constitucional," Siglo XXI, 28 april 2010

"Arizona Immigration Law FALLOUT: New Law Sparks Fiery Debate," Huffington Post, April 26, 2010

"Arizona governor signs immigration bill," CNN. April 24, 2010

"Civil rights groups fight Ariz. immigration law," Associated Press. April 24, 2010

"Obama slams Arizona immigration bill," CNN. April 23, 2010.

"Latino lawmakers urge veto of Arizona immigration law," CNN. April, 20, 2010.



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