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NEWS & POLITICS - Arizona SB 1070

Justified Legislation or Racial Discrimination?
U.S. Cities, Nations and the United Nations say Arizona Has Crossed the Line!
by Lynn Russ

With the passage of Arizona S.B. 1070 on April 23, 2010, the state of Arizona set off a fire storm of protests and support, and has also put immigration law and reform back on the front burner of American politics. Many opposed to the law see it as a way to legally justify racial profiling and as the first steps in making being brown in Arizona a crime in itself. They also believe the ripple effects of this law resemble the initial labeling of an ethnic group or racial group for persecution and harassment not unlike the tactics used against African Americans in the 1960s and by Nazi Germany during the 1940s.

The actual bill calls for police who are in the midst of enforcing any law to inquire about the immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person in question is an illegal immigrant. Police will be able to jail anyone who cannot produce papers at the given time. Papers that are considered legal proof that one is not illegal include an Arizona driver’s license, a non-operating identification license, a tribal enrollment card, or a federal, state, or local government issued card. The law also goes even further. With Arizona S.B. 1070 in effect, it is also unlawful for a motor vehicle occupant to attempt to hire or pick up to hire passengers for work at a different location. It is also unlawful for a person to enter the motor vehicle in order to be hired to work. The law is scheduled to go into effect July 28, 2010. There are already expectations of legal opposition to this legislation and questions as to its constitutionality.

The law is supported by the majority of Arizona residents. Arizona is home to approximately 460,000 illegal immigrants, mainly from bordering Mexico. Most supportive residents see the law as simply an enforcement of federal law regarding illegal immigrations and feel it is about time Arizona take the initiative and act against those who are here illegally. There are several groups, including the Tea Party Patriots, who are backing the law.

There are many other groups, nations and even United Nations representatives who deem the law as racist, legal harassment and as having the potential to violate civil rights. The United Nations rights experts criticize the law as a hostile act towards ethnic minorities and “allows for police action targeting individuals on the basis of their perceived ethnic origin.” On another level, Mexican President, Felipe Calderón, has been directly asked by the Mexican Senate to publicly reject the law. The Senate believes it is a human rights violation; and they also see a public rejection as a way to show support and solidarity with Mexicans who are in the United States. The Mexican state Coahuila has severed all ties with Arizona in protests.

Groups and organizations in the United States have also publically decried the law as racist and a form of profiling. Los Angeles City Council has banned most official travel to Arizona and has halted many future contracts with Arizona companies. The contracts alone are worth an estimated $58 million. Upwards of 70 American cities have passed resolutions or have called for protest against Arizona. Even Arizona democrats refer to the bill as racist.

The effects this bill and its firestorm of contempt may have on Arizona financially will surely be felt. The Washington Post says 23 conferences, conventions and meetings have already been cancelled. Arizona was set to host Major League Baseball’s 2010 All-Star Game. As it stands now, there is strong support to not have it there, especially since one quarter of major league baseball players are Hispanic and feel they too may be targeted or harassed due to the law. The Associated Press reported a Phoenix official as estimating a potential loss of $90 million over the next five years since groups are already cancelling events. The NBA is even voicing an opinion opposing the law. In a rare move, the Phoenix Suns wore their “Los Suns” uniforms for a playoff game held on Cinco De Mayo. They cited the need to show support for the Latino community.

Arizona is the first state to pass such legislation. While there have been restrictions enforced in the past and sanctions against employers who hire illegal immigrants, the act of asking for proof of status during any law enforcement encounter has re-ignited the debate, inspired citizens to act and speak out on both sides, and has made many question what this particular law may lead to in the future.

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