New Arizona Law Reignites Immigration Reform Debate

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by Emanuela P. Lima
Originally published in Tribuna CT

With a variety of law enforcement people standing behind her, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer talks about why she signed immigration bill SB-1070.

The push for immigration reform may seem to be on the front burner now that health care reform is out of the way. But candidates in the upcoming 2010 midterm-elections are already banking on the controversial issue to secure or gain their seats, which could push the issue further from resolution.

Undocumented immigrants are well aware of the relationship between harsh immigration legislation and elections. Recent events in the border state of Arizona paint a snapshot of what is to come in the upcoming months as the crossroads between local, state and federal government narrow on immigration.

 

by Emanuela P. Lima
Originally published in Tribuna CT

Tribuna CT is a free publication available at Big Y, A&P and C-Town grocery stores


The push for immigration reform may seem to be on the front burner now that health care reform is out of the way. But candidates in the upcoming 2010 midterm-elections are already banking on the controversial issue to secure or gain their seats, which could push the issue further from resolution.

Undocumented immigrants are well aware of the relationship between harsh immigration legislation and elections. Recent events in the border state of Arizona paint a snapshot of what is to come in the upcoming months as the crossroads between local, state and federal government narrow on immigration.

Ground Zero

Arizona has often been referred to as “ground zero” of the nation’s immigration fight. It’s the state where a 9-year-old girl and her father were shot and killed by anti-immigrant Minuteman vigilantes this past summer. It’s the home to “Hispanic-hunting” Sheriff Joe Arpaio.With a variety of law enforcement people standing behind her, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer talks about why she signed immigration bill SB-1070.

And on April 23, Arizona made headlines when it’s governor, Republican Jan Brewer, signed a bill titled the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” legislation that establishes the harshest set of immigration laws in the country.

The new law will go into effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session, which is expected to adjourn in the coming weeks.

In a press conference after signing the bill, Gov. Brewer said the state law “mirrors federal law” and claimed that it would not lead to racial profiling. She issued an executive order to provide training to make sure police are clear as to what “reasonable suspicion” is as they carry out the law. Brewer is up for re-election this fall. SB-1070 would require police to attempt to determine the immigration status of anyone they encounter as part of a “lawful contact” and allow them to arrest undocumented immigrants and charge them with trespass.

If residents believe police officers are not enforcing immigration laws, they can sue them. It would also outlaw the hiring of day laborers off the street and prohibit anyone from knowingly transporting an undocumented immigrant for any reason.

“I’ve decided to sign Senate Bill 1070 into law because, though many people disagree, I firmly believe it represents what’s best for Arizona,” said the governor. “Border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration are critically important issues to the people of our state, to my administration and to me, as your governor and as a citizen.”

Brewer stated that she cannot sacrifice the safety of the state to “the murderous greed of drug cartels,” and she would not stand idly by as “drop houses, kidnappings and violence compromise our quality of life.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a national organization that advocates the protection of individual rights, argues that SB-1070 unconstitutionally allows the state to regulate immigration — a power which the Constitution assigns to the federal government. The organization also highlights a provision of the bill that grants police officers authority to conduct warrantless arrests of anyone who cannot immediately produce documents, and noted that such actions has already been deemed invalid by the Ninth Circuit Court. The Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police (AAOP) firmly opposes the bill for fiscal and public safety reasons. Arturo Venegas, director of the Law Enforcement Engagement Initiative, issued a statement pointing out that the legislation “will result in police spending less time keeping the streets free of violent criminals” and create distrust within the immigrant community.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus asked Brewer to veto the bill and are pressuring President Obama to either warn of federal preemption of the law or threaten to cut off Arizona’s federal funding.

Friend or Foe

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is facing a tough primary challenge this year from immigration hawk J.D. Hayworth and is using SB-1070 to show that he’s “tough” on the issue.

McCain endorsed the legislation, describing it as “a very important step forward” shortly after proposing his own 10-point enforcement-only plan to secure the nation’s borders.

In an interview with Fox News, McCain stated that he would be “very sorry” if racial profiling happened, but “illegals” are “intentionally causing accidents on the freeway.” McCain once preferred to refer to undocumented immigrants as “God’s children” and described “enforcement-first” policies as an “ineffective and ill-advised approach.”

McCain now wants 700 miles of fencing along the Arizona-Mexico border, a proposal he once derided as a “quick fix” to our border security problems in the absence of a comprehensive approach.

McCain says that he and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) will block immigration reform if it is proposed this year. In 2006, McCain opposed the a bill that contained criminalization components virtually identical to SB-1070’s — calling it “anti-Hispanic.”

In a formal statement to the ethnic media, Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum and Chair of the Reform Immigration FOR America Campaign, described McCain’s pitch to the far right as “appalling”. “In previous immigration reform debates, he had been a leader and statesman from his party — willing to buck the most extreme elements of the right wing to deliver for the benefit of our country,” she said.

“Now he appears willing to do whatever he can to pander to the narrow fringes of the Republican Party… The transformation of McCain from a political maverick to a say-anythingto win-typical-DC-politician has been a stunning and a sad development.”

“The Door to Irresponsibility ”

President Barack Obama criticized Arizona’s tough immigration bill as irresponsible, as he spoke at a naturalization ceremony in the Rose Garden for 24 active-duty service members who were born in more than a dozen countries outside the U.S,

Obama said the federal government must act responsibly to reform national immigration law — or “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,” Obama said.

The president also vowed to continue to work with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to enact a comprehensive overhaul of immigration law.

He said there are 11 current Republican senators who have voted for immigration reform in the past.

“If we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country,” Obama said. “As a nation, as a people, we can choose a different future.”

Obama instructed the Justice Department to examine the bill to see if it will violate civil rights.

 

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