Allowing Virginia to pass legislation similar to Arizona's immigration law is a step in the wrong direction
In Arizona, immigration status has proven to be more significant than criminal activity, especially when the state's controversial immigration law (SB1070) was passed. Now Virginia hopes to follow in Arizona's footsteps by establishing a law similar to the border state's. This law should not be implemented for the same reason racial profiling shouldn't be tolerated; the law is misguided and racist.The Arizona legislation was first introduced earlier in 2010 and found controversial because of questionable, unconstitutional extremes the state wished to execute. This April, the law passed and subsequently required immigrants to carry registration documents at all times. The law also allows police to arbitrarily question individuals' immigration status during the enforcement of any other law.
Virginia lawmakers have said that by next year they will introduce legislation similar to Arizona's. Virginia's attorney general, in the meantime, has issued a legal opinion that allows law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone for any reason. This seems to be Virginia's best attempt to avoid the courts, which Arizona lawmakers very publicly battled.
In April, President Barack Obama attended a rally in Iowa and gave a speech about Arizona's new immigration law. "You can imagine if you are a Hispanic American in Arizona, your great grandparents may have been there before Arizona was even a state, but now suddenly if you don't have your paper and you took your kid out to get ice cream, you're gonna get harassed," he said.
If the Virginia legislature passes this law, they would follow in the footsteps of their own Prince William's County, which requires that immigration status be checked on all persons arrested. Corey Stewart, chairman of Prince William County's Board of Supervisors, claims that her county's law helped violent crime drop sharply, but government statistics show that fewer than 5 percent of those arrested were illegal immigrants. A statewide law could presumably be just as ineffective.
The elected officials who will vote on this law need to look past their party lines and see that there is a bigger issue than gaining votes. Racism and racial profiling are inexcusable, and SB1070 has given law enforcement officials, who are meant to make a community feel safe and protected, the ability to make people feel trapped and under fire.
If more states follow in Arizona's footsteps and begin to institute a law so strong, so complicated and so controversial, SB1070 will eventually divide the country into pieces.
Molly Nicholson. GO RAVENS! I would want nothing more than to be sitting on a beach watching the Baltimore Ravens win the Super Bowl. More »