The immigration debate has always caused a rift among citizens of Arizona —a state that has one of the highest Latino populations in the country. Though Hispanics own businesses, hold public office and help support the local economy, the perception that immigrants do nothing but drain community resources, take away jobs and increase violence persists for some in the southwestern state.
The debate is predictably split along racial and socioeconomic lines, and the signing of a new bill SB 1070 into law last Friday by Gov. Jan Brewer has deepened the chasm. “We were already afraid, and I was thinking of leaving for California,” Mesa, AZ resident Eric Ramirez, 29, told the NY Times. “We shop in their stores, we clean their yards, but they want us out and the police will be on us.”
The section of the new law that is sparking the most controversy reads as follows:
WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE,WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON.
Since the majority of the "illegal aliens" in Arizona are Mexican, the above language effectively legalizes and encourages the use of racial profiling against Latinos among law enforcement. As common sense dictates that there is no way to tell upon initial visual identification whether or not a Latino is in the country illegally or has been a United States citizen for five generations, Hispanics are up in arms over what they see as a direct affront to their most basic civil rights.
President Obama called the law "misguided" and noted that its passage threatens 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 has since ordered the Justice Department to look into the legality of SB 1070, although many Latino advocates are calling for him to push harder in their defense.
Gov. Brewer defended her decision to sign the bill into law on Friday, saying, "We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act. But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation."
Since the bill was passed, it has been met by fierce resistance. Protests have rocked the southern state and Latinos all across the nation have mobilized to urge the governor to veto the bill. Changes to the law will not go into effect for at least 90 days, but if and when they do, it looks like it's going to be open season for hunting Brown people in Arizona.
Tell us: How you feel about Arizona’s new immigration laws?