Arizona’s New Bill Re-Ignites Immigration Debate

The Arizona State Legislature recently passed the toughest immigration legislation on record.  The bill is currently on Arizona Governor Jan Bewer’s desk for signing – she must sign or veto by April 25, 2010.

The bill, if signed into law, will make it a crime under state law to be an undocumented immigrant in the state of Arizona. It also gives state and local police the authority to stop and question anyone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant.

Opponents of the bill say that it will result in racial profiling against Hispanics and serious violations of basic civil rights. They also fear that the law will make undocumented residents more reluctant to call the police in cases of emergency, resulting in higher rates of crime and abuse. Hundreds protested the bill yesterday outside the Arizona State Capital complex.

President Obama called the bill “misguided” and worries that it could violate civil rights. He asked the Justice Department to investigate the bills constitutionality.  To date, regulation of immigration n the United States has been a responsibility of the federal government.  If signed into law, Arizona’s venture into enforcing immigration laws will likely result in numerous legal battles.  Obama also stated that the “recent efforts in Arizona… 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” (The Associated Press, April 23, 2010).

Arizona is the state with the most border crossings by illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America, including Salvadorans.  An estimated 2,000,000 Salvadorans currently live in the United States, making El Salvador one of the top 10 countries of origin for immigrants in the US. (Inter-Press Service, October 18, 2009).  Although Texas, California, New York, New Jersey and the DC Metropolitan area have the most concentrated Salvadoran populations, the Arizona bill could set a dangerous precedent for other states, and negatively impact hundreds of thousands of undocumented Salvadoran immigrants.

President Obama also said that the federal government must enact immigration reform now or they will leave to door open to more irresponsibility by others (The Associated Press, April 23, 2010).  During his presidential campaign, Obama identified immigration reform as one of the main issues that the nation must face, and that his administration would enact new legislation within a year of his taking office. Unfortunately they have made little progress on the issue, and it is unlikely that Washington will take on such a difficult topic during an election year.  In previous statements, however, President Obama has stated that his aim is to move the focus of the debate away from catching and deporting the more than 12 million undocumented workers, a goal he called “ridiculous” in a February 2008 speech. Instead, he has called for policies that would give current undocumented immigrants routes to legal citizenship and make legal immigration more accessible to future immigrants by improving the current bureaucracy and lowering fees.  President Obama has also stated a desire to strengthen border security and crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers in order to cut down on incentives to immigrate illegally and to encourage becoming a legal citizen. (

Whether or not Governor Brewer signs the bill into law, the Arizona debate has highlighted the extreme differences in national opinion, and the need for action. Perhaps it will even be the spark needed to reignite the immigration debate and bring about real reform.


4 thoughts on “Arizona’s New Bill Re-Ignites Immigration Debate”

  1. Certainly immigration reform is needed, I agree… Maybe as you say Arizona’s action will lead the way to meaningful reform, as another post at another site stated.

  2. You really should read and understand the Bill before criticizing it. I did so and came to a determination quite opposite from what you seem to support. I have posted my arguement at

    Sorry to say you have misrepresented the contents along the same lines as the mainstream media who are providing spin in an effort to support a Liberal version of ‘Immigration Reform’.

    First let me say, to espouse a need of ‘Immigration Reform’ you must be able to proove a need, not simply a desire to make the policies fit an agenda. Currently, proving the system is ‘broke’ and in need of reformation is impossible, because it has not been properly enforced in decades.

    You wrote,
    The bill, if signed into law, will make it a crime under state law to be an undocumented immigrant in the state of Arizona.

    In case you are not aware, taking up residence, anywhere in the United States, without proper documentation is illegal, and the illegal immigrants who do this are in violation of Federal Law by remaining here.

    It could be argued, any person willing to disrespect our laws by entering the country illegally, is willing to disrespect other laws as well.

    Furthermore, you wrote,
    It also gives state and local police the authority to stop and question anyone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant.

    This is a gross misrepresentation of the Bill. According to the actual Bill, Law Enforcement may inquire as to an individuals legal status only during, what is referred to as, “legal contact”, and then only after establishing “Reasonable Suspicion”.

    We already have reasonable suspicion allowances for Law Enforcement, and anyone that is here legally, including citizens, is required to carry identification, and present that identification to Law Enforcement when requested to do so.

    Therefore, Arizona’s SB1070 is simply a re-enforcement to Laws already in existence and does not mandate “Rules of Naturalization”, which is the purview of Congress, according to the Constitution of the United States.

    As to “Racial Profiling”, there is specific language in the Bill banning any such practice, unlike “Affirmative Action”, which is based on “Racial Profiling”.

    I personally have no anomosity toward immigration, it is one of the things that makes America great. However, as a citizen, I believe it is wrong for any person to disrespect the laws of our nation to accomodate their own personal interests, and then demand acceptance of the People and access to benifits, thus creating an unnecessary burden on the society they invade.

    1. Setting aside the more controversial issues of undocumented immigrants for a moment, provisions of the bill create situations in which law enforcement and government agencies violate our 4th Amendment rights. Just so you have it handy, the 4th Amendment reads:

      “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

      The Arizona law, as amended, now requires that law enforcement officials or any other state or local agency that is in lawful contact with a person, and who has “reasonable suspicion” that they are unlawfully in the U.S., take reasonable measures to check their immigration status. Not only that, if the law enforcement agent or government agency doesn’t take action, citizens can sue the government. Its primarily these two provisions (Article 8 B. and G.) that have raised concerns.

      Here’s a law-school hypothetical for you. A 5th generation U.S. citizen who happens to be of Latino dissent walks down to city hall to pick up stickers required to set his garbage cans out for weekly pickup. The clerk asks him for his driver’s license, at which time the Latino guy realizes that he forgot to stick in his pocket when getting dressed that morning. Is there reasonable suspicion that he is undocumented – a Latino without an ID? What if he had a tattoo that looked a little like one that the clerk or Sheriff’s Deputy saw on a gang documentary the week before? Does the clerk or Sheriff’s Deputy standing nearby have to hold the guy while they check his immigration status? Does the clerk or Sheriff’s Deputy have to worry that if they don’t hold the guy and check his status that the next guy in line who is watching will sue for their not taking reasonable action? What if the guy without an ID was white – is that reasonable suspicion? Should they check his immigration status also?

      Sure, Article 8 J. says that the law enforcement agents have to implement the law in a manner consistent with federal laws protecting civil rights, but I don’t see how they do it. What is “reasonable suspicion”? How can an officer comply with this law and not risk violating 4th Amendment rights? What else other than race is there to go on? The overwhelming majority of the undocumented workers in the U.S. are Latino, and there is little else that law enforcement can go on. The easiest way to get rid of undocumented workers would be to stop every Latino on the street and check their immigration status. The Constitution and Supreme Court won’t let you do that though. (See Wolfish, 441 U.S. at 595 which states that the 4th Amendment protects people (not limited to citizens – in fact the Court has held that resident aliens are covered by the 4th Amendment) from some kinds of law enforcement because the cost of police intrusion into personal liberty is too high, even though the intrusion would result in the efficient apprehension of criminals. “The easiest course for [law enforcement] officials is not always one that our Constitution allows them to take.”)
      If Arizona is having a problem with the border, then perhaps we ought to work on that problem with real immigration reform.

      The problem is all economics. In the U.S. we want access to emerging markets for our goods. We also want the goods that we buy to be affordable. So we sign free trade agreements that make it easier for us to dump our heavily subsidized agricultural products in countries like Mexico making it impossible to make a living farming. So that leaves them two choices – they can go work in manufacturing facilities sewing your blue jeans or your wife’s bras (which we want to be produced as cheaply as possible – thank you Walmart), or they can come up here to the U.S. and cut our grass and paint our houses. The jobs in the manufacturing facilities pay very low wages and the working conditions are bad. Plus they are located along the border, which has become a war zone with cartels fighting to get drugs into the U.S. to feed our dirty little addictions. This is not such a good option.

      When our economy is good (and even mediocre), crossing the border is the better option. Even if it is without documents, the risk of getting caught and sent back outweighs the bad conditions of working in a manufacturing facility along the border. And when the U.S. economy is good, our labor market is hungry for good cheap labor. As we saw in the latest booms, there aren’t enough U.S. citizens to meet demand for the low-end service and manufacturing jobs, so employers hire people that might not be documented. Sure its against the law, but at least they can find someone to fill the empty positions.

      The INS used to work closely with the President’s Economic Council and Department of Labor to estimate how many work visas to issue every year in an effort to satisfy the demands of the labor market. But since 2001 and the creation of ICE and Homeland Security, the process for getting a work visa is so difficult and expensive, that there is no way to issue visas in a timely manner and meet the current needs of our labor market. So employers have no choice to look the other way. No matter what the law is, as long as there are demands in the labor market that are unmet by U.S. citizens or resident aliens, there will be undocumented workers crossing the border.

      So instead of running the risk of violating 4th Amendment rights, why not create a way to introduce foreign workers into the U.S. to satisfy our labor markets? That way border patrol and law enforcement agents can focus on the bad guys who are smuggling drugs and other bad things.

  3. It sounds to me, like you are making an argument, in part based on emotion or opinion. I would suggest that although we can never afford to lose sight of compassion, and possibly empathy, neither can we afford to attempt to legislate morality or emotion. America is a nation founded on principles of individual freedom, self-governance, and the rule of common law, to maintain societal harmony and mutual respect of our citizens.

    Those who gain ingress by illegal means, violate the foundation of the forming of our nation by violating the very laws they demand protection under. Therefore, although I do not fully agree with SB1070, passed by the Arizona Legislature, I applaud them for having the courage to stand in the face of adversity, and do what they believe is the right thing for the People of their State.

    As to your question, regarding the appearance of illegal immigrants, they look just like you and me, or my best friend, or my neighbor, or the President, or even the people who passed the law in Arizona.

    With this in mind, it does not take a rocket scientist to comprehend that ‘racial profiling’ is not the answer to the dilemma facing our country.

    The Arizona Legislature passed a follow on provision, to SB1070, clarifying the implementation of the law, with specific language to further ban ‘racial profiling’.

    No person may be stopped solely for the purpose of questioning their immigration status, they must be stopped for something other than potential immigration violations. At this point in the ‘lawful contact’ of Law Enforcement, they would rely on the standard set by the Supreme Court, pertaining to the 4th amendment, in Terry v. Ohio (1968)

    A “Terry Stop” is a stop of a person by law enforcement officers based upon “reasonable suspicion” that a person may have been engaged in criminal activity, whereas an arrest requires “probable cause” that a suspect committed a criminal offense.

    According to Wikipedia – Reasonable suspicion is a legal standard in United States law that a person has been, is, or is about to be engaged in criminal activity based on specific and articulable facts and inferences. It is the basis for an investigatory or Terry stop by the police and requires less evidence than probable cause, the legal requirement for arrests and warrants.

    Reasonable suspicion is evaluated using the “reasonable person” or “reasonable officer” standard, in which said person in the same circumstances could reasonably believe a person has been, is, or is about to be engaged in criminal activity; such suspicion is not a mere hunch.

    According to Senior Legal Instructor, Steven L. Argiriou, in the Quarterly Review, “the purpose of a Terry stop is to conduct a brief investigation to confirm or deny that the suspect is involved in criminal activity.

    A law enforcement officer may initiate a Terry stop when he or she suspects that an individual is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime, but probable cause does not yet exist to arrest and the officer wants to “stop” the suspect and investigate. If, during the stop, probable cause to arrest is developed, the suspect will be arrested. If probable cause is not developed, the suspect is released.”

    Finally, if I were an officer, and I pulled an individual over for a traffic violation, and the person was unable to understand English, or even had a difficult time of it, and spoke the little English they were capable of with a heavy Western Asian accent, did not want to present a drivers’ license, or showed unnecessary signs of irritation for being pulled over, or appeared to avoid my questions. I believe this would give me reasonable cause to pursue questions regarding their immigration status.

    If you notice, I never even insinuated their complexion, or their first language. I would recommend that people be very careful, not to act racist in an overzealous effort to fight racism, thus becoming that which they claim to detest.

    Also, in answer to you ‘law-school hypothetical’, I would imagine, depending on what the State law is, the person could be cited for an infraction due to not having his identification on him, though most of the time, citing infractions is left to the discretion of the officer.

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