Arizona Legislation Sends a Heat Wave through the Nation

The early months of 2010 have been a roller-coaster of anticipation and tension within the immigration debate. Expectations were running high in March when a Senators Schumer and Graham released a framework for reform days before crowds of over 200,000–unified in their chants of “immigration reform now” – gathered blocks from the capitol.

Weeks later, a heat wave of anger erupted when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB1070, a draconian and dangerous legislation that has sparked both swift and widespread responses.

What would this new law do?  For starters, it criminalizes unauthorized migrants for 'trespassing' into Arizona, institutionalizes racial profiling by requiring that officers inquire about an individual’s immigration status if they have ‘reasonable suspicion’ to be undocumented, and permits any resident to sue local agencies if they believe that this law is not being adequately enforced.

Governor Brewer also signed into law HB2162 on April 30th – although this measure revises the earlier legislation, advocates assert that it fails to meaningfully “cleanup” the dangerous provisions contained in SB1070.

Numerous civil and human rights groups, including the ACLU, Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund, and National Immigration Law Center, have identified this law as patently unconstitutional and are poised to pursue legal avenues to challenge the law. Others, like the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, have already filed suit.  

Police and sheriffs have made it clear - SB1070 is bad for public safety and will jeopardize their ability to protect the communities they serve.

•    A 2006 report by the Major Cities [Police] Chiefs expressed concern that the enforcement of immigration laws by local police officials undermines carefully cultivated relationships of trust and cooperation, which has a chilling effect as immigrant victims and witnesses of crime are left feeling fearful to come forward. This concern was duly noted by former Mesa Police Chief George Gascón, who stated that the measure "will have a catastrophic effect on policing and set back community policing efforts for decades," and emphasized the difficulty police will have curtailing crime in many neighborhoods as "people will be more hesitant to report crimes.”

•    Should the bill take effect 90 days after the current legislative session, those who refuse to comply could be setting themselves up to be sued.  An unprecedented measure, the bill allows for private individuals to sue state agencies they believe are not complying adequately with the law.  As stated by former Sacramento Police Chief Arturo Venegas, "No other law in the country allows citizens to sue a government agency for not arresting enough people."

•    Colorado Springs Chief Richard Meyers clarified what this could mean for police and their work to promote and protect public safety:  "If I have a shots-fired call or the potential to stop someone who might be checked for documented status, I'm going to do that before I respond to shots fired because I won't get sued if don't respond to shots fired."

And then there are the potential economic impacts, devastating for a state mired in a budget crisis. Following the calls of many to boycott the state, including southern Arizona’s own Rep. Grijalva, localities from El Paso to Oakland to St. Paul have passed resolutions boycotting Arizona and Arizonan businesses, by calling for city employees to cancel travel to the state – contributing to a loss of millions that would have been pumped into the economy by would-be convention attendees and vacationers.  

Sports teams have voiced their opposition as well – Major League Baseball has threatened to pull their 2011 All-Star Game from Phoenix if the law is not modified or repealed. Owner of the Phoenix Suns, Robert Sarver, voiced his concern for the state and has chosen to have his team wear their “Los Suns” jerseys for their May 5th NBA playoff game in honor of the Latino community. We understand that a growing number of groups and localities are poised to join the boycott soon (for more info, click here). 

After canceling their upcoming convention to the state, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Bernie Walsdorf, highlighted the all too obvious reality that many fail to acknowledge:

 “What Governor Brewer has done by signing this bill into law is to validate all of the irrational fears by people who are not willing to acknowledge the economic and cultural benefits of immigration to our country… If Arizonans are serious about ending illegal immigration, they should be the first in line at the United States Capitol to urge Congress to the do the right thing and pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

We couldn’t say it better ourselves, because when it comes down to it, Governor Brewer was right about one thing: the federal government has failed to enact sensible and humane policies that help solve the crisis of migration at our SW border.  As highlighted in Margaret Regan’s guest blog in the Washington Post, “the new law will do nothing to solve Arizona’s real and pressing border problems: It addresses neither the growing violence of drug smugglers nor the escalating deaths of migrants who are coming to the United States only to work or re-unite with their families.”

We need sensible and humane border policies, paired with comprehensive immigration reform, to give job-seeking migrants and those trying to reunite with their families a means to cross the U.S.-Mexico border safely and legally, and to allow our brave men and women in uniform to focus their efforts on protecting our communities from serious, violent crime. If you believe in peace, safety, and respect for civil and human rights in the borderlands, then click here to join our call for just policies at our SW border.

PLEASE NOTE: New developments in response to SB 1070 are occurring by the minute! Below we've provided a few links to websites that will help keep you up-to-date with the latest news related to Arizona.

Click here
to visit Arizona's own Border Action Network.

Click here to view the National Day Laborer Organizing Network's Arizona campaign.

To follow legal challenges to SB 1070, click here to visit the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund; or click here to visit the ACLU of Arizona.

Click here to learn more about the National Council of La Raza and their partners' campaign to "Boycott Intolerance."

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