Law brings immigration issue back into spotlight

May 6th, 2010

A protestor shouts as he joins thousands attending an immigration rally in the capital of Arizona on April 25. (AP)

Across the country, tensions are high after the passage and signing of a new immigration law in Arizona. Last Saturday, from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., protestors were out in full force expressing their dislike of the new law.

According to The New York Times, the new law, passed by the Republican state legislature, makes it a crime to be present in Arizona without legal immigration status. It also requires immigrants to carry their alien registration documents with them at all times, and allows police to question people about their status based on a suspicion that they might be illegal immigrants.

Supporters of the law say that the state was right to take matters into its own hands after waiting long enough for the federal government to act on the issue of illegal immigration.Opponents, however, say the law will no doubt lead to racial profiling, arguing that police will only stop and question Latinos.

Changes were made and signed in to the bill Friday that Jan Brewer, the Republican governor of Arizona, believes will eliminate the possibility of racial profiling. These changes clarified that police can only stop suspected illegal immigrants while enforcing some other law or ordinance. According to CNN, Brewer said, “These new amendments make it crystal clear and undeniable that racial profiling is illegal and will not be tolerated in Arizona.”

However, according to John Carroll political science professor Dwight Hahn, “There is a civil war going on in the Republican Party. The Arizona immigration law is a hot-button issue that illustrates the divide.”

President Obama has also expressed discontent over the law. In a speech at the Rose Garden of the White House, Obama said, “Take, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

State Sen. Russel Pearce (R-AZ) was a main sponsor of the law. He told CNN, “Illegal’s not a race, it’s a crime … And in Arizona, we’re going to enforce [the law].” According to The Washington Post, the passage of this law elevates immigration reform to the spotlight of the 2010 elections.

“The law definitely has implications toward the November elections. The Latino vote is a large portion of the electorate and it’s possible that the passage of this law will take a substantial amount of those votes away from Republicans in November,” said Hahn.

According to a Pew Hispanic Center report from 2009, about 500,000 illegal immigrants were believed to live in Arizona in 2008, and 11.9 million nationwide. That number is up from 3.5 million nationwide in 1990.