Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

The Odiousness of Arizona’s Immigration Bill

Jim Wallis provides a searing indictment of Arizona’s shameful immigration bill in today’s Huffington Post. The repressive, discriminatory bill has passed both houses of the Arizona legislature and awaits the governor’s signature (she is likely to sign the bill).

Why is this law so discriminatory?

Senate Bill 1070 enables and protects police in racial profiling. The law empowers police with the ability to stop anyone whom the officer believes there is “reasonable suspicion” he or she might be an undocumented immigrant. As Wallis notes:

Those without identification papers, even if they are legal, are subject to arrest; so don’t forget your wallet on your way to work if you are Hispanic in Arizona. You can also be arrested if you are stopped and are simply with people who are undocumented — even if they are your family.

Alfredo Gutierrez, former state senator and founder and editor of La Frontera Times.com, a daily digital newspaper that advocates for undocumented immigrants and immigration reform, stated the issue more pointedly: this is a bill that goes after brown people.

During an episode of On Point yesterday, Gutierrez challenged Rep. John Kavanaugh, the prime sponsor of the Arizona bill. Kavanaugh defended the bill’s tenets, arguing that the issue of illegal immigration was one of geography–not racial profiling. The Republican lawmaker’s reasoning is that illegal immigration is strictly a problem of proximity to Mexico. Don’t worry, Kavanaugh seems to imply: people of all races will be pulled over in Arizona, whether white, black, or brown.

The simple, unfortunate truth is that this new law will legalize racial profiling. As Wallis states in his passionate article:

Arizona’s SB 1070 must be named as a social and racial sin, and should be denounced as such by people of faith and conscience across the nation. This is not just about Arizona, but about all of us, and about what kind of country we want to be. It’s time to stand up to this new strategy of “deportation by attrition,” which I heard for the first time today in Arizona. It is a policy of deliberate political cruelty, and it should be remembered that “attrition” is a term of war.

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2 Responses

  1. emuleman says:

    * The Arizona law simply enforces existing federal laws. Now Arizona police can actually enforce laws that are already on the books. Obviously the reason for this is because the federal government is not enforcing the law effectively in Arizona. The new Arizona law simply states that violating federal immigration law is now a state crime as well. Because illegal immigrants are by definition in violation of federal immigration laws, they can now be arrested by local law enforcement in Arizona. No new actions. No new powers. No new nothing. Simply enforcing federal law, and absolutely nothing else.

    * The law only allows police to ask about immigration status in the normal course of “lawful contact” with a person, such as a traffic stop or if they have committed a crime. Before asking a person about immigration status, law enforcement officials are required by the law to have “reasonable suspicion” that a person is an illegal immigrant. The concept of “reasonable suspicion” is well established by court rulings. Since Arizona does not issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, having a valid license creates a presumption of legal status. The same thing happens to me when I get pulled over, they ask to see my drivers license or identification card. This is not a new, radical concept or law. Police have been asking people for identification for many years.

    I just find it amazing that people are getting all worked up about this. Federal law already exists, but the Federal government does not enforce it. Arizona has a huge immigration problem. They finally decide to pass a law that allows state officers to enforce the federal laws. It is the federal government’s irresponsibility that has finally caused Arizona to take charge and protect its citizens.

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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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