Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law last Friday a controversial immigration bill — Arizona Senate Bill 1070 — that not only enables law enforcement to actively seek out illegal immigrants, but requires them to do so.
The SB 1070 fact sheet states that officials and agencies of the state and political subdivisions are required to fully comply with and assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws and that county attorneys are given subpoena power in certain investigations of employers. The bill also establishes crimes involving trespassing by illegal aliens, stopping to hire or soliciting work under specified circumstances, and transporting, harboring or concealing unlawful aliens, and their respective penalties.
Although there’s a presumption of innocence in our court system, that anyone charged with a criminal offense is innocent until proven guilty, apparently, Brewer feels differently. If a person resembles an illegal alien, whatever that means, then that person will be interrogated and arrested if he or she is unable to produce the proper papers. The bill may also subject citizens who merely befriend illegal aliens to the risk of running afoul of the law.
In every way, this bill screams discrimination and racial profiling and, because of the turmoil south of the border, the governor has justified its passage due to the chaos spilling over into the state. But that doesn’t make it right.
The main problem with this bill is the simple phrase of “reasonable suspicion.” Just as one Ventura police officer noted, enforcement by reasonable suspicion is used when a crime against another person or property has been alleged — illegal immigration is a sticky situation most officers only deal with after investigating another crime. Also, law enforcement only refers to race if it’s in describing the physical characteristics of a suspect who has committed a crime (such as theft, murder and rape), not one’s immigration status.
As protesters gather around the country and civil rights attorneys gear up for battle, there are some good things about this bill. While it is clear that interrogating any person based on skin color is a violation of constitutional rights, this is the first time lawmakers and regular citizens are truly abuzz about immigration reform. Also, it is drawing a line for some conservative politicians. While most Republicans have a staunch stance on illegal immigration, perhaps, this bill goes too far. Even former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush acknowledged that the bill would have unintended consequences, and it would present significant issues with civil liberties.
On its face, it appears as though Brewer is condoning racism, but this bill may actually spur our elected officials into action and get them to start talking seriously about immigration reform. We hope lawmakers take advantage of this volatile situation and find a solution that is fair to those who are here illegally but who work and add to local economies and one that is also fair to those who came here through the proper legal channels.