Controversial New Arizona Statute Signed Into Law
On April 23, 2010, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed a tough new measure (S.B. 1070, pdf, html summary) into law that directs local police to make immigration status determinations if there is a “reasonable suspicion” a person may be undocumented, and makes it a misdemeanor to lack proper immigration documents. The law is scheduled to take effect by August.
Gov. Brewer said the new law “represents another tool for our state to use as we work to solve a crisis we did not create and the federal government has refused to fix.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is campaigning in a primary against a challenger who has made immigration a main issue, came out in favor of the law only hours before its passage by the state Senate.
Controversy and protests have swirled around the new law. Those opposed are especially concerned about racial and ethnic profiling and the effects of criminalizing a person’s failure to carry immigration documents. “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,” warned Alessandra Soler Meetze, president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona. The ACLU plans to sue to block the legislation.
Moments after Gov. Brewer signed the law, the Board of Governors of the American Immigration Lawyers Association called for a boycott of Arizona, instructing its Executive Committee to move the Association’s fall 2010 conference, previously scheduled for Arizona, to another state. AILA President Bernie Wolfsdorf explained, “We cannot in good conscience spend association dollars in a state that dehumanizes the people we represent and fight for. What Governor Brewer has done by signing this bill into law is to validate all of the irrational fears by people who are not willing to acknowledge the economic and cultural benefits of immigration to our country. If Arizonans are serious about ending illegal immigration, they should be the first in line at the United States Capitol to urge Congress to the do the right thing and pass comprehensive immigration reform.”
AILA stated that in addition to being unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the law effectively authorizes police to engage in racial profiling and permits citizens to sue any state or local agency if they believe it is failing to enforce the law. “On top of making laws that will be struck down in the courts, it will hurt business and even bankrupt local municipalities. We’ve seen this happen in other localities trying to be tough on immigration but in the end hurting their own economies,” Mr. Wolfsdorf said. AILA cited the example of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where two months after a harsh 2008 law went into effect, construction work was being left unfinished and local businesses were losing customers. AILA also noted that such laws add enforcement of federal immigration law to already overburdened local police departments. Police unions backed the new law, but the state police chief’s association opposed the bill, noting that it could damage trust in immigrant communities among potential witnesses.
PolitiFact recently published a fact-checking article examining the issue of racial or ethnic profiling with respect to the new law.