Post by Randall Ryder
Arizona’s recently passed immigration law has erupted into a national controversy. When the dust settles, will the state stand behind its new law? Under the new law, police are required to check the citizenship or residency status of anyone they suspect to be an illegal immigrant. Under federal law, immigrants are already required to register with the government and carry their paperwork with them. Critics of the bill argue the law essentially sanctions racial profiling, and unfairly targets Hispanic individuals.
Arizona maintains that they have a more pronounced immigration problem, and that the bill was passed to help local law enforcement help with the situation. Local law enforcement, however, seems to think the new law could create an unsustainable drain on their resources. If enforcing the law becomes an overwhelming drain, that would severely undermine the effectiveness of the new law.
Nationally, the bill appears to have significant support. A recent poll showed that 51% of Americans supports the law, and only 36% of Americans think the law goes too far. Opponents of the bill, however, have turned to grassroots efforts to demonstrate their opposition to the law. Marches and demonstrations across the country have taken place in the last week, nearly all of the public displays have been in opposition to the new law. Opponents of the bill have urged individuals not to travel to Arizona as a sign of protest. The Phoenix Suns, a NBA basketball team, wore uniforms that protested the law in a playoff game on Wednesday night.
Proponents of the bill suggest that it cannot be used for racial profiling. Specifically, page 1 of the new law says that "no police officer can use race, ethnic origin, color or country of origin as a basis to form reasonable suspicion." The law also protects against unreasonable search and seizure. Essentially, the text of the law appears to indicate that suspicion of illegal immigrant status based purely on that individual’s race is prohibited. The practical consequences of the law, however, remain to be seen.
One analyst thinks the law is here to stay, noting that many anti-immigration measures are hot topics when they are first passed. Once the publicity dies down, however, the law becomes the norm. Given the enormous public outcry, however, it remains to be seen if other states will try and implement similar laws.