“Show Me Your Papers”
The immigration battle is on again.
Tired of waiting for Federal Government to take action to secure Arizona’s border against illegal immigrant entry Governor Jan Brewer has sanctioned a new law that gives local police the authority to question suspected illegal immigrants.
The Senate Bill 1070 became a law at 1.30 p.m on Friday April 23, 2010 and goes into effect 90 days after the current legislative session ends, which is in early May.
Arizona’s immigration law, now considered the toughest in the nation, makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally and requires local police to enforce federal immigration laws.
It will require anyone whom police suspect of being in the country illegally to produce “an alien registration document,” such as a green card or other proof of citizenship, such as a passport or Arizona driver’s license.
It also makes it illegal to impede the flow of traffic by picking up day labourers for work. A day labourer who gets picked up for work, and traffic is impeded in the process, would also be committing a criminal act.
The new Arizona immigration law has sparked outrage among support groups and religious bodies across the United States. The opponents argue that it will encourage victimization, discrimination and racial profiling. Critics, too, have likened it to a fascist law and charged that it could turn Arizona into a police state.
Brewer said the law represented another tool for the state to “work to solve a crisis we did not create and the federal government has refused to fix – the crisis caused by illegal immigration and Arizona’s porous border.”
Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, the bill’s sponsor, called it “a good day for America.” He said the law was reasonable.
“This is the most reprehensible thing since the Japanese internment,” said Alfredo Gutierrez, a former state senator and community leader. “This is the saddest day for me. It’s shameful.”
A statement from the Mexican government lamented the move. It stated that “ Arizona lawmakers and the executive branch didn’t take into account immigrants’ contributions – economically, socially and culturally. The criminalization isn’t the path to resolve the undocumented-immigration phenomenon,” it added.
The controversy which surrounded some key phrases has prompted the Governor to make swift amendments to the law in order to clarify certain points.
The first concerned the phrase “lawful contact.” The bill stated: “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…”
Drafters of the law sought to explain that “lawful contact” was in regard to specific situations where police may have stopped someone suspected of violating, for example, a traffic stop. On the other hand, the critics argued it would allow them to pick someone out of a crowd and “demand their papers.”
In the amended version the lawmakers have replaced “lawful contact” with “lawful stop, detention or arrest,” and 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.”
The second concerned the word “solely.” To safeguard against racial profiling, the law included the phrase, “The attorney general or county attorney shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color or national origin.” Critics objected to that and noted that it would not prevent but instead lead to racial profiling. Hence, the word “solely” has been removed from the law.
In another part of the law which used “solely” and stated that “A law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state may not solely consider race, color or national origin in implementing the requirements of this subsection except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution.” Given the clear limitation of actions to those allowed by the Constitution, that remained unchanged.
A few more changes were also made to reduce some penalties, add smaller fines and shorter jail terms.
As the controversy deepened, Paul Babeu, Sheriff of Pinal Count, Arizona, said he and his department supported the new law.
In a live interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren he said crime was literally off the charts in Arizona. “We have some of the highest crime statistics in America, where officers are being assaulted, officer-involved shootings, carjackings, home invasions. Literally in the absence of federal action, our state is now taking action. And it’s a welcomed action and step by us who serve in law enforcement.”
He insisted that the police would apply the law without profiling anyone.