Arizona's 2010 Immigration Law, SB1070 has caused a lot of excitement, worry and discussion in the press. Is the Arizona immigration law all bad?
What Is the New Arizona Immigration Law?
In very simple terms, the Arizona immigration law, SB1070 seeks to enforce long-standing federal legislation on illegal immigration. It has been framed in such terms that it is constitutional and does not conflict with US federal laws. The Arizona lawyers who framed this law knew that it would be challenged in the federal court system and made sure that those challenges were likely to fail.
This law is aimed, primarily, at those employers who knowingly employ illegal immigrants and at those who transport them across the border from Mexico, rather than at the individuals who have crossed the border looking for work.
There is good logic here; if there are no jobs for illegal immigrants then they will stop coming. There are many employers in agriculture and in the construction industry who are still willing to take a chance and employ an illegal immigrant so they will not need to pay taxes. These workers are also easier to pressure into working long hours at lower wages, or to deny payment at all for work performed, because they are frightened of losing their job and being deported.
Nobody will sympathize with the human traffickers who take the migrants' money and bring them into the United States.
Under the SB1070 Arizona law, immigration enforcement and other law officers can detain individuals whom they have grounds to think are illegal immigrants. They always had this power and nothing has changed.
Law officers can act only under certain very strict conditions. The original SB1070 law said officers could question anyone they were "in lawful contact" with.
"For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency…where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person…"
There are two contentious phrases in this wording "lawful contact" and "reasonable suspicion"
"Lawful contact" is open to broad interpretation and this has led to civil rights activists and Hispanic communities' concerns about racial stereotyping and the possible interrogation of any Hispanic-American who ever came into contact with a police officer.
The offending reference to "lawful contact" has been amended to "lawful stop, detention or arrest." The intention is the same as the original wording, but there is less ambiguity. Lawmakers explained that the change "stipulates that a lawful stop, detention or arrest must be in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state."
In reality, any police officer can always find a legally valid reason to make a "lawful stop" of any driver. No driver ever sticks to every law, all of the time.
"Reasonable suspicion" arises from a combination of factors, but race and ethnicity are specifically excluded
Having to carry your driver license to prove you are a legal resident in the United States is hardly such an imposition. Many European countries have had such laws in place for decades. Americans already need their driver licenses to board a flight or to buy prescription medicines, and this is hardly a burden.
The civil liberties groups seem to be using this whole issue for their own purposes. "Liberty is lost by a series of small steps," they argue, and that is true, but in the face of international terrorism and uncontrolled movement of people across borders, having to carry a driver license is a step that is justified.
Who Will be Affected By the Arizona Immigration Legislation?
Police officers are busy, so few bother stopping drivers just because they can.
It seems likely that officers will investigate the residency status of anyone they arrest for any crime. As far as the police are concerned, they have enough to do already.
Nothing seems to have changed. The law relating to illegal immigrants is a federal one. Law enforcement officers have to make inquiries of federal agencies regarding the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant.
State police already had the right to stop anyone they wanted to, whenever they chose to do so. Race is specifically excluded under Arizona law as grounds for suspicion of any offense, including that of being an illegal immigrant.
When Was the Arizona Immigration Law Passed?
Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer, signed the SB1070 Arizona Immigration Law on April 23rd, 2010. It became legally enforceable 90 days later, in July 2010.
Was There a Need for an Arizona New Immigration Law 2010?
America is a nation of immigrants and there are federal laws regarding illegal immigration. There is pressure on the federal government to reform immigration regulation.
Arizona has a large number of illegal immigrants from Mexico and people are resentful that "jobs are being taken by non-Americans."
During any recession there is always a backlash against immigrants, as Americans of every group lose jobs. Politicians are under pressure to act.
Who Is Affected by the Arizona Illegal Immigration Law?
Some groups are using the Arizona Immigration Law issue to raise concerns about it being the next step in the United States moving towards a racist society.
This seems unrealistic if we trust our law enforcement officers. Yes, abuse is possible, just as it always has been. There are laws and avenues open to individuals who think they have suffered discrimination. With a racially integrated police force it is unlikely that racial discrimination would be tolerated.
Where Can You Find Help Regarding the Arizona Immigration Law 2010?
If you suspect that you are the victim of racial stereotyping or harassment there are many law firms whose lawyers specialize in this type of case.