The passage of SB 1070 by the House of Representatives in Arizona will have chilling repercussions if signed into law by Governor Brewer. The bill dramatically expands police powers to stop, question and detain individuals for not having proper identification, a move that will instigate racial profiling and fear and driving a wedge between groups.
SB 1070 effectively makes it a crime to be undocumented in Arizona, and will be one of the harshest anti-immigrant legislations in the U.S. if it becomes law. The bill passed in Arizona’s House of Representatives and is to be combined with a similar bill that passed in the Senate, after which it is expected to be signed into law Governor Brewer. Senator Russell K. Pearce (R-AZ) who introduced the bill has publicly stated that if it passes, 10 other states will follow suit with similar legislation.
So what’s in it? The bill requires the police to investigate the immigration status of every person that they come across, whom they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is in the country unlawfully. This implies that everyone has to carry their papers with them at all times in order to avoid being stopped, arrested, and detained, effectively fashioning Arizona into nothing short of a police state. Currently, police officers can only inquire about a person’s immigration status if the person is a suspect in a crime. In addition, the bill allows anyone to sue a local, country or state agency if they believe that the agency is not enforcing immigration law, expressly forbids cities from adopting “sanctuary” policies that prevent police from carrying out immigration enforcement, and makes it illegal to solicit work or hire day laborers.
While opponents of immigration have been rooting for this measure for a long time, immigrant rights advocates have unanimously condemned the bill as an affront on the civil liberties of the residents of Arizona. From business groups and faith leaders to municipal governments and police chiefs, the bill has seen increasing opposition. Even within the police, while police unions support the bill, the state police chief’s association has opposed the bill, saying that it will hamper the trust that immigrant communities place in the their services. Outraged by its potential passage, groups like the ACLU, NDLON, Bordern Action Network and national networks have gone into overdrive to protest the bill. According to Alessandra Meetze, President of the ACLU of Arizona,
Instead of working on real solutions to the immigration crisis, our legislators have devised a proposal that is full of shortcuts…Contrary to what proponents of SB1070 say, the bill does not prohibit officers from relying on race or ethnicity in deciding who to investigate…A lot of U.S. citizens are going to be swept up in the application of this law for something as simple as having an accent and leaving their wallet at home.
While Senator Pearce believes the bill simply “takes the handcuffs off of law enforcement and lets them do their job”, in reality, it promotes racial profiling and cements anti-immigrant sentiment already prevalent in Arizona. The grounds of “reasonable suspicion” on which police officers will investigate people about their immigration status will in many cases be based on racial and ethnic grounds. One immigration group, Somos America, likens it to the system operating under apartheid or pre-civil rights America with Jim Crow laws, where people of color were disallowed from entering “white” land, yet were exploited for their labor by the white population. Given Arizona’s infamous Sheriff Arpaio whose dictatorial methods favor neighborhood sweeps, tent city detentions, and racial stops the fear of the misuse of the bill is not far fetched.
Sign a petition to tell Governor Brewer to stand up for Arizona and stop signing a bill into law that will terrorize communities and create painful divisions. Send a free fax to make your thoughts on SB 1070 heard. Tell Gov. Brewer to say no to racial profiling.
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