|Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona officially signed the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, or Arizona SB 1070 for short, into action on April 23, 2010. The state law will take effect as of July 28, 2010. |
Essentially, the bill makes it legal for law enforcement officers in the state of Arizona under reasonable suspicion to determine the nature of someone’s immigration status. The bill will also allow for officials to arrest a person if there is probable cause to believe that the person is in the United States illegally. Officials will release those detained only after they show proof of status. First-time offenders face a fine of up to $100. Repeat offenders could face a maximum of 20 days in jail on top of fines. Another provision of the bill makes it a crime to shelter illegal aliens, transport them, and encourage or play any part in their immigration, knowingly or recklessly. Depending on the number of illegal aliens involved, offenders could face felony charges.
Passage of the bill sparked immediate controversy. According to a recent poll taken by CBS, 51% of Americans say the bill is “just right”, whereas only 36% say the bill “goes too far”. Proponents of the bill argue that the state of Arizona is acting in accordance with federal laws. Critics, however, believe that the bill not only warrants racial profiling, but also represents a serious infringement on the rights of non-U.S. citizens living in Arizona.
Acting out against the bill
Protests against the bill have been staged across the country. On May 1, 2010, protestors formed in over 70 cities including Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, and Milwaukee. With around 60,000 demonstrators, Los Angeles became the main hub of this nationwide protest.
Arizona SB1070 has been the subject of a lot of criticism from politicians including Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Major Michael Bloomberg, and President Obama, among others. Some activist organizations have compared SB1070 to the Japanese American internment, Apartheid, and the Nazi occupation of Germany.
Contempt for the bill has even made its way into mainstream entertainment. International pop sensation Shakira recently gave a press conference with Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon to speak out against Arizona SB1070. Most recently, the Phoenix Suns basketball team debuted a “Los Suns” jersey on Cinco de Mayo during their match-up against the San Antonio Spurs to pay tribute to the city’s rich Latino culture.
Implications of the bill
One of the main critiques of the bill is that it will lead to racial profiling, particularly since it begs the question of how a law enforcement officer will even determine “reasonable suspicion” to inquire about a person’s legal status. Is it that way someone looks or the way a person speaks English? At the signing conference for SB1070, Governor Jan Brewer said that she did not have an answer to this.
While SB1070 will have no bearing on federal law or any other state for that matter, immigration experts warn that SB1070 may negatively affect H-1B holders strictly in Arizona, particularly those who cannot immediately show proof that they are working legally in the United States. Such a measure is also thought to discourage foreign students from attending universities and foreign businesses from expanding operations in Arizona, especially when it would be easier to do so in a state with less stringent immigration laws. Other experts claim that SB1070 could also impact the high-tech industry in Arizona, discouraging foreign workers from seeking employment altogether.
As immigration papers are hard to replace, experts say that H-1B workers are not likely to carry such documentation around to complete everyday chores for fear that they might become lost or stolen. Having documentation to show immigration status is required by law. However, most visa holders are rarely if ever asked to produce papers, especially in public. In essence, SB0170 is thought to give rise to de facto immigration agents—agents who may or may not understand all of the workings of immigrant visas.
To make matters more complicated, some claim that administrative processing of documents could render H-1B holders waiting for a new I-94 without any documentation to prove their legal status. Under SB1070, such aliens in Arizona will be subject to wrongful detainment.
In addition, some believe that the act will make undocumented aliens even more fearful of law enforcement officers, thereby discouraging them from reporting crimes done to themselves or to others and from seeking help for fear of possible deportation.
Of course, there is hope that this state bill will eventually be struck down. On April 28, a local group in Phoenix motioned for a ballot proposition, which requires the collection of 76,000 signatures before the law takes effect. If successful, this measure could take SB1070 to vote, possibly delaying it until 2012. As of April 29, two parties filed suit against Arizona SB 1070, a local Arizona police officer and a Christian Latino group. On May 5th President Obama called for the united effort between Democrats and Republicans to push for comprehensive immigration reform this year, despite the fact that he stated publicly last week that Congress may not be able to tackle another “hot-button” issue so soon after the health reform bill. While Obama made it a campaign promise to work on immigration reform during his presidential term, the impending passage of SB1070 has seemed to spark renewed interest of the issue. It is our hope that immigrants, politicians, and supporters of the immigrant community band together to make sure that a comprehensive immigration reform bill becomes an immigration law in 2010.
We at Zhang and Associates, P.C. are friends of the immigrant community. Our staff understands that immigration to this country is a difficult transition for some. We are here to make this transition easier for you and will help you reach your immigration goals.