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Arizona Immigration Law Good For One Thing: Reform

April 26, 2010

We knew it was coming.  Late last week Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the most controversial immigration law our country has seen in a minute.

With hundreds of protesters outside the state Capitol shouting that the bill would lead to civil rights abuses, Brewer said critics were “overreacting” and that she wouldn’t tolerate racial profiling.

“We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act,” Brewer said after signing the law. “But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation.”

In short the law allows police officers to stop anyone they think may not be a citizen and demand papers proving that person is in the country illegally.

I agree that illegal immigration is a severe issue which places a huge burden on everyone and needs comprehensive reform.  Now, usually when I say that, I’m hit with “omg you would be okay with families being broken up; non-citizen parents being deported while their citizen children stay here?!”

Take a breath.  I understand the complexities of the issue (the above is just one of them, by the way) on both sides.  Like it or not, I stand on the side of what I feel is best for us as a country.  Yes, I have a problem with people who live in this country and don’t pay taxes.  I have a problem with the impact it has on our public education system- that’s to say, I have no issue with additional services to support any child for any reason, but with a constant lack of funding it’s spreading resources too thin and doing a dis-service to all children, sans the most affluent.

So how would I fix the problem?  I don’t know.

But Arizona’s efforts to fix their problem, throws the gates open to a host of potential human rights violations and related problems.  Ask yourselves some rational questions on this one.

What signals does a person give off to a police officer if they are here illegally, exactly?

Is it the color of their skin?  Where they work?  The kinds of clothes they wear?  Perhaps it’s the language they speak, the kind of car they drive or how they style their hair.

The point is, doubt of citizenship is in the eye of the beholder- and that litmus test just isn’t strong enough.  There are already Federal immigration agents all over this country- including Arizona- actively searching for undocumented citizens and those agents have long-since been accused of racial profiling.

You’re probably thinking “hey, no big deal; if an officer accidentally detains someone who is here legally, they can get that misunderstanding worked out lickety split.”

Just last week an Arizona truck driver named Abdon, a U.S. citizen by birth, was held in a federal detention center for failing to prove his citizenship:

Abdon was told he did not have enough paperwork on him when he pulled into a weigh station, to have his commercial truck checked. He provided his commercial driver’s license and a social security number but ended up handcuffed.

An agent called his wife and she had to leave work to drive home and grab other documents like his birth certificate.

Jackie explains, “I have his social security card as well and mine. He’s legit. It’s the first time it’s ever happened.”

Both were born in the United States and say they are now both infuriated that keeping important documents safely at home is no longer an option.

Jackie says, “It doesn’t feel like it’s a good way of life, to live with fear, even though we are okay, we are legal…still have to carry documents around.”

If I were a Latina woman living in Arizona I wouldn’t leave home without notarized documentation that proves my citizenship, because I would be terrified of the alternative; being stopped and arrested because someone in law enforcement claims s/he has just cause to question whether I am legal or not.

Most alarming is the lack of a provision that would protect undocumented residents should they report a crime.  If a woman who is in this country illegally is raped, the last place she’ll be going is to the police.  If a child who is a US citizen is molested, and her parents are not legal citizens, it’s unlikely they will seek medical attention, let alone justice for the wrong committed.  What happens to that rapist?  What happens to that child molester?  Will they feel they have license to get away with it again?

Maybe you’re thinking it’s not our job to fight for justice for people who don’t belong here.  But what if the crimes are committed by Americans?  Should we only prosecute criminals in this country if their crimes are against other US citizens, and let the rest slide?

The governor says concerns like these are unlikely, but I say she’s fooling herself.  People take advantage of those who are not in a position to advocate for themselves- we’ve seen that time and time again.

But one thing this new law will probably do is kick immigration reform back into the national spotlight, where hopefully, we can start to get things moving in a direction that makes sense.

Obama has said he feels the new Arizona law is misguided and instructed the justice department to determine whether or not it’s legal, which could result in the federal government taking the matter to court, right behind dozens of civil and human rights organizations.

Arizona may have convinced itself it is finally on the right path, but I doubt they get very far.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 26, 2010 3:39 am

    Thanks for the balanced and thoughtful post. I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but I feel strongly that enforcing immigration laws against individuals while ignoring the companies that hire them (which rewards and encourages further illegal immigration) is ineffectual and counterproductive.

    I also think it is not logistically or financially possible to track down, detain, investigate, and deport the tens of millions of illegal immigrants who currently live in this country.

    The suggestion by some that every illegal immigrant “get in line,” apply for legal status, and wait their turn is disingenuous when we virtually ignore the large number of immigrants in our country who have overstayed their visas, and the current visa processing backlog averages about and is as long as <a href="; title="23 years".

    My current (and evolving) opinion is that the solution lies with some form of temporary amnesty for illegal immigrants currently in the US, coupled with aggressive border enforcement, severe employer penalties, and the elimination of tax credits and deductions for all non-citizens. This would ensure that everyone pays their fair share of taxes, relieves the financial burden on taxpayers, and reduces the motivation for future potential illegal immigrants.

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