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Arizona Immigration Bill Draws Bipartisan Fire

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Across the country, there is a bipartisan outcry against Arizona’s draconian new anti-immigrant law, which many say is impractical, unenforceable, poor policy and will lead to racial profiling.

On Friday, Arizona’s Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law S.B. 1070, which allows police to stop and question anyone they have “reasonable suspicion” of being undocumented. The bill does not define “reasonable suspicion,” a fact that many opponents say is a carte blanche for racial profiling.

Rebekah Friend, secretary-treasurer of the Arizona AFL-CIO, says:

First of all, this is a federal issue, not a state issue. Second, our police are overburdened already because of budget cuts and this puts an unnecessary burden on them. And I believe it could lead to racial profiling. The presumption of guilt  is the antithesis of everything we stand for. Arizona is better than this.

Writing for NDN, a Washington, D.C., think tank, which studies the growing importance of Hispanics and globalization, Alicia Menendezsays the law is impractical. Since it’s impossible to identify a foreign national by sight, it effectively mandates that all individuals in Arizona carry papers, she says. 

That’s right: you, American citizen, can’t walk your dog or buy milk from the grocery store without having papers on you that confirm your legal residence. If you take your kids to the park and forget your documentation at home, you can be held in police custody until your information is verified, even if you’re a U.S. citizen.

Gerald Lenoir, director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), says U.S. trade policy has played a big role in creating the immigration problem. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for example, Mexico opened its markets to subsidized food crops from the United States. The result is that 3 million Mexican farmers could not compete with cheap U.S. commodities and lost their land and their livelihood. Many of them, along with their families, have migrated to the United States looking for jobs. Lenoir says:

So, let me get this right, the United States invades the economy of another country and the economic refugees that come here are labeled illegal? What’s wrong with this picture?

The usually conservative daily, the Arizona Republic, writes in an editorial today that immigration policy must be established not by individual states but by the federal government, which must enact comprehensive immigration reform.

S.B. 1070 is not an answer to a long-standing failure of the feds to fix the border. It will not stop illegal immigration. To do that, the federal government needs to pass immigration reform that imposes order at the border, creates a legal flow of needed workers and helps bring the nation’s undocumented workforce out of the shadows.

 This bill does none of that.

At Huffington Post, Robert Creamer says the new law is a call to action for progressives. Comparing Arizona in 2010 to Alabama in 1963, when officials used police dogs and fire hoses against peaceful civil rights marchers, he says:

[T]he passage of this law may also serve as a wakeup call to people around the country who believe in fundamental American values. In the same way the excesses of Alabama’s leaders helped pass the civil rights laws, so this un-American law may spur Congress to fix our profoundly broken immigration system.    

The overreaching of the anti-immigrant forces in Arizona has set the stage for action. It’s up to us to make it happen. Enough! Immigration reform now.


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