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April 30, 2010

Your tired, poor and huddled masses

by Masha Lafen, Online Sports and Entertainment Editor
As a state that shares a border with Mexico, Arizona has had a history of problems with illegal immigrants. Illegal immigration is a complex and emotionally charged issue with no easy solution. For years, Arizona has suffered from high crime rates and drug trafficking from across the border, and recent murders of Arizona ranchers by suspected drug smuggling and human trafficking criminals has pushed the Arizona legislature and governor toward drastic action. Although there is a clear need to address immigration issues, the law signed by Governor of Arizona Jan Brewer proposes a harsh and inappropriate solution to a far more complex problem.

On Sunday, thousands of people gathered to protest the Arizona immigration law. Courtesy of Associated Press
On Sunday, thousands of people gathered to protest the Arizona immigration law.
The Arizona law requires local police to question all people who they believe may be present in the country illegally, making presence in Arizona a criminal offense punishable by time in state prison. All those questioned by police are required to show documentation proving their citizenship or legal status in the country. With vague standards for mandatory police activity, the bill preaches a cure, when it creates far more problems than it solves. Unfortunately, this legislation is now gaining momentum in other states.

The immigration bill would dramatically transform race relations in Arizona. Law enforcement officials could be sued if they are seen as being too lenient in their questioning. On the other hand, the broad power given to the police is an invitation for harassment and discrimination of anyone whose skin color, clothing, behavior or choice of music could be misconstrued by police.

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Beyond the fundamental repugnance of the law, the extent of its counterproductive provisions is truly staggering. Concern about crime in Arizona stimulated much of the momentum for passage, yet police officials there expressed concern shared by Montgomery County police, that fear of revealing immigration status to local police makes it nearly impossible to secure cooperation from legal and illegal immigrants and citizens who are members of communities where crime by drug traffickers and gang members are serious problems.

Another immediate effect of this legislation will be a decline in Mexican tourism to Arizona, which is currently a major source of income for the state and will fall short if Mexican citizens and other Hispanic people feel unwelcome. Targeting illegal immigrants in such a broad gesture will result in racial conflict and financial problems for the state.

Efforts to reverse the Arizona law will take place on two tracks. The Obama administration and civil rights organizations are considering taking action against the constitutionality of the Arizona provisions. At the same time, many organizations and individuals are changing their summer travel plans, boycotting Arizona and moving their meetings, conventions and vacations to states that do not enforce blatant racial discrimination. But the local popularity of the bill in neighboring states have already inspired copycat legislation, as similar provisions are under consideration in Utah and specifically Texas, where Texas State Representative Leo Berman said that he plans to introduce a similar bill. Hopefully, though, the oppressive central provisions of this bill will be thrown out in the courtrooms before it spreads to other states.



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  • Nikki on April 30, 2010 at 3:30 PM
    It is not that I don't have compassion for people that "just want a better life", but I believe that Arizona is doing the right thing. This law is not oppressive. We as citizens are asked to produce ID daily. In most states we are legally bound to carry it at all times.

    Yes, it is possible that an officer will misinterpret "reasonable cause"; however, I believe most officers will enforce the law as it is intended just as most of them enforce all other laws that are on the books as they are intended. If you get pulled over for a traffic violation and you can't produce a driver's license or you don't speak English then yes, they have a reason to question your citizenship. The police will not be "stopping families when they are out for ice cream", and if they do, you can bet your bottom dollar that CNN will be al over it. If officers abuse this or any law, they should be dealt with accordingly.

    We have to do something. Scottsdale, Arizona has so many kidnappings a year that they are now ranked with South America. My brother-in-law lives on the border of Texas and the violence is spilling over there. Texas ranchers' lives are threaten on a daily basis and it is only a matter of time before someone is killed there as well.

    In Mexico, it is a felony to cross the border illegally. You can serve 2 years in jail. The citizens of Mexico will turn you in, if you are there illegally. I cannot travel to Switzerland and decide I I like it and want to stay. The instant your travel visa expires, they hunt you down and ship you out. No apologies, no lawsuits claiming racial profiling just ship you out. We must protect the sovereignty of country.

    America is a wonderful place and I understand and support legal immigration. My friend came into this country legally from Italy. He did not speak any English. He learned English and went to school to become an orthopedic surgeon. A couple of decades later he sold his practice and is making more money in real estate than he did in medicine. Now he has decided to go to law school and become an international tax attorney. I have no doubt that he will achieve this goal. He loves this country. He remembers his Italian heritage but accepts our culture. He accepted how America works and has profited greatly. That IS the American dream.



  • Staff Member on May 3, 2010 at 10:35 AM
    This issue leaves me torn. I abhor racial profiling. However, there has to be a way to keep law-abiding US citizens safe. Too often, people escape prosecution in their native Mexico and arrive in the US illegally. Their criminal behavior follows them here. Illegal immigrants, ESPECIALLY criminals from other lands, must be controlled!
  • Some Guy on May 3, 2010 at 3:01 PM
    interesting.
  • Staff Member on May 4, 2010 at 8:08 AM
    Yes, there will be racial profiling in Arizona because there is racial profiling here, now. A friend of mine who is a naturalized citizen of the US was arrested and thrown in jail for "possibly" knowing something about a crime that was 4 people removed from her. The lawyers said that this never would have happened if she weren't Hispanic. African Americans are thrown into jail without cause all the time in this country. If you can't afford a lawyer you have no recourse. This is an ugly law.
  • J707 (View Email) on May 5, 2010 at 5:58 PM
    -- "Illegal immigration is a complex and emotionally charged issue with no easy solution."


    Oh but I think there is.

    Of course if someone is caught breaking the law and it is discovered that they are not citizens they should be deported...but beyond this I suggest that illegal immigrants not be "rounded up" or sought out at all.

    Simply have the authorities ask employers for the documentation for each of their on-site employees. For each undocumented worker to whom they are not paying a legal wage, workers' comp, etc...for each illegal immigrant being exploited for cheap labor knowing they have no legal recourse against the employer, fine that employer $10,000 per worker. Leave the workers themselves alone altogether.

    Something tells me that the "problem" would for the most part solve itself. Then again, see if the powerful in this country really want the faucet of cheap exploitable labor to american business turned off...

  • Cariba Phoenix on May 6, 2010 at 8:56 AM
    Driving while Black
    Flying while Arab
    Walking while Hispanic

    Welcome to America!

    With all due respect to Nikki, in terms of immigration history, America did not even require a passport to come to this country until the 1920's, and much of the current hoopla over immigration is actually fairly recent. One could date it to 1994 when NAFTA went into effect, wrecked Mexico's agricultural sector that was a huge chunk of its economy, causing many people to basically have nowhere else to go. If one wants to actually solve this issue, one has to get to the root causes, not simply deal (ineffectively) with the symptoms.

    So, in terms of preventing undocumented workers from coming into the country, I'd suggest repealing NAFTA, making the legal immigration process much much simpler (it's a total mess right now), and penalizing the companies that hire undocumented workers over legal immigrants or citizens. And also, require companies to pay undocumented workers the same wage as citizens, removing any economic exploitation and the incentives from it.

    Right now, some of the biggest enablers of workers coming over without papers are some of the biggest companies in the United States, who love the cheap labor. Ever eaten pork in the US? Chances are it was processed at the Smithfield foods plant in Tar Heel NC, and Smithfield is well known for looking the other way when it comes to undocumented workers. After all, hiring workers who barely speak English really makes it harder to unionize, keeping working conditions horrible and profitable. They get away with it because the penalty for hiring an undocumented worker is still relatively small.

    As for immigrants who are already here, I'd say offer them a path to citizenship. If they haven't committed any crimes other than lacking papers, and if they're willing to pay any back taxes owed, add their potential to ours. And while some people might be opposed to this, I'd ask them, what's the alternative? We obviously can't deport 12 million undocumented workers. Our economy relies on them, and (as a Jewish person) i'd say it's immoral to have police officers barging into a home, arresting people based on their race or skin color, splitting up families.
    Furthermore, even if we prevent future undocumented immigration, the large pool of undocumented workers in the US today would still pull wages down. We should offer them a path to citizenship in order to prevent this.

    And also, just wondering, why is it that almost everyone assumes that all undocumented workers are Hispanic? In my Urban Issues class in college, we learned that the second biggest group of undocumented people are the Irish. Can you imagine what would happen if white people who "possibly" "looked" Irish got harassed, illegally arrested
  • id-less (View Email) on May 6, 2010 at 6:46 PM
    "In most states we are legally bound to carry it at all times."

    ... since when? Not in Maryland, as far as I know.
  • illegal immigration (View Email) on May 9, 2010 at 4:18 PM
    The boats already full. not to be mean but they won't have us if it was the other way around.
  • Anonymous on June 4, 2010 at 10:35 AM
    Every illegal immigrant should disspear & then we'll see how this country does without them! If they're running around doing criminal activities than fine I can't say a word for them BUT for the ones that are here trying to support their family and make a living, I will hold my grounds and speak up!
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