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Debate: Arizona illegal immigration law

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Background and context

Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 into law on April 23, 2010. The law, formally known as the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, is a hard-line bill designed to identify, charge, and potentially deport illegal immigrants currently residing in Arizona.
The legislation mandates that immigrants carry their papers at all times, and that police verify the legal status of individuals during the course of traffic stops or other law-enforcement actions, and when there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the individuals under question are illegal aliens. The legislation makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally, and ratchets-up punishments against those that harbor or transport illegal immigrants and against employers that hire them. Citizens can hold state and local governments and agencies accountable by suing any of these bodies that fail to carry out immigration-related enforcement. In the broadest sense, Arizona has picked a side in the immigration debate. It favors finding, punishing, and potentially deporting illegal immigrants, instead of seeking ways to integrate them into American society through, for example, a “path to citizenship.” The arguments in this larger debate, and surrounding the specifics of Arizona's law are presented below.

More background on Wikipedia: Arizona immigration law.

Contents

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Principles: Is Arizona's law sound in principle?

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Pro

  • Arizona has every right to fight illegal immigration Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said at the bill-signing: "Border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration are critically important issues to the people of our state. We cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of drug cartels. We cannot stand idly by as drop houses, kidnappings and violence compromise our quality of life."[1]
  • Arizona immigration law awkward, but necessary Jonah Goldberg. "Arizona's ugly but necessary immigration law." Los Angeles Times. April 29th, 2010: "I agree that there's something ugly about the police asking citizens for their 'papers.' (There's nothing particularly ugly about asking illegal immigrants for their papers, though.) There's also something ugly about American citizens being physically searched at airports, or about IRS agents prying into nearly all of your personal-financial transactions or, thanks to the passage of ObamaCare, serving as health insurance enforcers. In other words, many government functions are unappealing. That's not in itself an argument against them. The Patriot Act was ugly – and necessary."
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Con

  • Statements against Arizona immigration law Singer Linda Ronstadt. “My family, of both German and Mexican heritage, has a long history in Arizona. It has been our diverse and shared history in this state that unites us and makes us stronger. What Governor Brewer signed into law last week is a piece of legislation that threatens the very heart of this great state."[2]


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Reasonable suspicion: Will reasonable suspicion of illegality be applied fairly?

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Pro

  • Arizona cops will justly apply "reasonable suspicion" of illegals Kris Kobach. "Why Arizona Drew a Line." New York Times. April 28th, 2010: "[Argument:] 'Reasonable suspicion' is a meaningless term that will permit police misconduct. [Counter-argument:] Over the past four decades, federal courts have issued hundreds of opinions defining those two words. The Arizona law didn’t invent the concept: Precedents list the factors that can contribute to reasonable suspicion; when several are combined, the 'totality of circumstances' that results may create reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed. [...] For example, the Arizona law is most likely to come into play after a traffic stop. A police officer pulls a minivan over for speeding. A dozen passengers are crammed in. None has identification. The highway is a known alien-smuggling corridor. The driver is acting evasively. Those factors combine to create reasonable suspicion that the occupants are not in the country legally."


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Con

  • Cops will trump up charges in order to find illegals Shikha Dalmia. "Arizona's Law: Anti-Immigrant And Anti-Constitutional." Forbes. April 5th, 2010: "The amended law limits such inquiries to instances when cops make a lawful stop, detention or arrest in the course of enforcing some other law or local ordinance. But including local ordinances as grounds for an immigration inquiry opens all kinds of tantalizing harassment possibilities for officials like Joe Arpaio--the notorious but popular Arizona sheriff who has made it his personal mission to root out undocumented aliens from the state by launching crime sweeps in Latino communities on the flimsiest of pretexts. [...] Under the new law, Arpaio could troll Hispanic neighborhoods demanding the papers of anyone breaking, say, a local pooper-scooper law while walking their dogs."


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Carrying papers: Is it just to force illegals to carry papers?

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Pro

  • Nothing to worry about as long as you have papers. Carrying papers is no more inconvenient than carrying a drivers license or any other form of ID. It is a tradeoff for a person coming to live in the country rather than in Mexico.


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Con

  • Arizona law burdens immigrants who must carry papers Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona: “If this law were implemented, citizens would effectively have to carry ‘their papers’ at all times to avoid arrest. It is a low point in modern America when a state law requires police to demand documents from people on the street.”[3]


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Racial profiling: Does the law avoid racial profiling?

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Pro

  • Arizona law does not allow for racial profiling Kris Kobach. "Why Arizona Drew a Line." New York Times. April 28th, 2010: "The law will allow police to engage in racial profiling. Actually, Section 2 provides that a law enforcement official “may not solely consider race, color or national origin” in making any stops or determining immigration status. In addition, all normal Fourth Amendment protections against profiling will continue to apply. In fact, the Arizona law actually reduces the likelihood of race-based harassment by compelling police officers to contact the federal government as soon as is practicable when they suspect a person is an illegal alien, as opposed to letting them make arrests on their own assessment."


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Con

According to the U.S. Census, approximately 30% of the population in Arizona are of Hispanic or Latino origin. In truth a person of any descent could be an illegal immigrant. Can an officer of the law really apply this law without being influenced by a persons race? Sharing a border with Mexico only increases the likelihood that an officer will be unjustly prejudiced in suspecting a hispanic is an illegal immigrant.

  • Arizona immigration law partly driven by racism "Arizona law will invite racial profiling." Wiked Local. May 3, 2010: "It’s a scary piece of legislation that will invite racial profiling. What does an “illegal immigrant” look like? In Arizona’s case, it will be someone with brown skin. [...] The state that resisted a Martin Luther King holiday seems to relish discouraging people with darker shades of skin. [...] Arizona voters approved a King holiday in 1992, but only after a tourist boycott and loss of the 1993 Super Bowl, which was supposed to have been played in Tempe. This year’s action might cost the state baseball’s 2011 All-Star game."


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Feasibility: Is implementation feasible?

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Pro


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Deterrence: Does Arizona's law deter illegal immigration?

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Pro


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Con

  • Arizona law encourages illegal immigration. Although conventional wisdom presumes that a prohibitory law will have the desired effect, careful studies of law often show the opposite effect: the behavior they are supposed to inhibit actually increases. Attempts to ban alcohol consumption, teen smoking, advertising, pornography, and fast driving are among the many instances of prohibitions that have backfired.
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Crime: Will Arizona's law help reduce crime in Arizona?

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Pro

  • The new immigration law will decrease crime rates in Arizona. Illegal immigrants are often, although not always, involved in other crimes, particularly drug-trafficking. Cracking down on illegal immigrants will, therefore, have a positive effect in reducing crime rates in Arizona.
  • Arizona law represents a much needed step away from anarchy. In general, the absence of the enforcement of immigration laws in Arizona creates a sense of anarchy in the state, and a certain feeling among criminals that they can commit crimes without concern for punishment.


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Con

  • Arizona law puts police under contradicting missions Joel Jacobsen, assistant attorney general, criminal appeals division for New Mexico: "This obviously puts police in an impossible situation because it requires them to pursue two goals simultaneously: to enforce the immigration laws; and to enforce the criminal laws, keep the peace, provide assistance, and all the other ordinary tasks of police officers. Which goal should they pursue? It will frequently not be possible to do both, because the officer will be required to arrest perpetrator and victim both, and the punishment experienced by the victim of a violent crime will frequently be more severe and life-disrupting – deportation – than that experienced by the perpetrator – a night in jail, perhaps."[4]


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State rights: Is Arizona's law consistent with federalism?

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Pro

  • Arizona has right to fight illegal immigration w/o federal authorization Kris Kobach. "Why Arizona Drew a Line." New York Times. April 28th, 2010: "[Myth:] State governments aren’t allowed to get involved in immigration, which is a federal matter. [Counter-argument:] While it is true that Washington holds primary authority in immigration, the Supreme Court since 1976 has recognized that states may enact laws to discourage illegal immigration without being pre-empted by federal law. As long as Congress hasn’t expressly forbidden the state law in question, the statute doesn’t conflict with federal law and Congress has not displaced all state laws from the field, it is permitted. That’s why Arizona’s 2007 law making it illegal to knowingly employ unauthorized aliens was sustained by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit."
  • States, local govts are best at fighting illegal immigration. State and local governments are the closest to the problem, and the most capable of designing targeted approaches for their particular illegal immigration problem, which may very in type and severity from state to state.
  • 10th amendment supports state rights to craft immigration law. The Tenth Amendment preserves the traditional police powers of the states to control their own jurisdictions. Many believe this amendment applies to the creation and enforcement of immigration law, in particular because it is a criminal issue.


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Con

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Constitution: Is the Arizona immigration law constitutional?

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Pro

  • Government protection (from illegal immigrants) is a const. right. Governments are required by their Constitutions to protect their citizens from crime and foreign threats. In so far as illegal immigration threatens citizens, governments are required to respond aggressively. Arizona, who's citizens have been terribly affected by illegal immigration, is required to respond robustly in fighting the problem.
  • Arizona law constitutional; no stops w/o other offense. "The law is clearly within the boundaries of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. It doesn't allow officers to contact people on basis of race. They have to break another crime or violate another statute to even be contacted."


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Con

  • Arizona immigration law violates the Fourth Amendment. Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."[5]


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Economics: How will the Arizona illegal immigrant law impact the economy?

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Pro

  • Arizona law will return jobs back to the American people. [6] "The wide array of statistics available from government and private sector sources leads to this conclusion: Unemployment disproportionately hits unskilled, uneducated blacks and native-born Hispanics. Why? It is simple, business economics: (1) In the unskilled labor market, legal workers offer no greater productivity than comparable illegal ones; (2) legal hiring requires employers to conform to U.S. law; and (3) citizen new hires often expect benefits. In short, more illegal workers cost employers less."
  • Arizona law will lessen the financial burden caused by illegal aliens.Arizona currently has at least 500,000 illegal aliens on the ground, costing the state $1.3 billion per year.
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Con

  • Arizona immigration law will damage local economy According to Judge Andrew Napolitano: "She's also gonna bankrupt her state, because no insurance company will provide coverage for this. And for all the lawsuits that will happen -- for all the people that are wrongfully stopped -- her budget will be paying for it. Her budget will be paying the legal bills of the lawyers who sue on behalf of those that were stopped."
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National Security: Do illegal immigrants in Arizona pose a threat to national security?

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Pro

  • Illegal immigrants in Arizona pose threat to security Andrew Fair. "Arizona immigration law is sound, needed." Watertown Daily News. May 6th, 2010: "Obviously, some find it easier to cry out that Arizona's action is unfair and mean-spirited. Regrettably, most American citizens are not fully aware of the illegal immigration crisis this country is experiencing. Any notion of a mass amnesty is foolish and will only worsen the problem, encouraging more aliens to enter the United States illegally and further reward those who have already violated our laws. The solution begins with proactive enforcement of immigration laws at all levels of government. We must remember that the events of 9-11 occurred due to our failure to enforce existing immigration law."


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Con

  • Illegal immigrants do not pose a threat to national security. Largely the result of both push and pull factors, illegal immigrants come to the United States in search of jobs and opportunities, religious freedom, and political freedom, and to escape poverty, persecution, or political corruption/instability. These immigrants do not, by any means, pose a threat to national security.
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History: Can any historical parallels be drawn?

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Con

  • The law draws parallels to the old Jim Crow Laws of the South. The Arizona law forces police to ask alleged illegal immigrants for their papers if "reasonable suspicion" exists. The law also calls for the arrest of people knowingly concealing illegal immigrants. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have denounced the law as "an unconstitutional throwback to the Jim Crow laws that mandated racial segregation in public."
  • Arizona immigration law undermines civil rights movement Juan Carlos Ruiz, director of the Latino Foundation of Greater Washington: "Fifty years in fighting the civil rights efforts that we have put to ensure that all Americans, all people in this country, are free...We cannot go back to this slave patrol era."


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Public opinion: Where does public opinion stand?

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Pro

Additionally, according to The Economist, 9% of respondents think that the law "doesn't go far enough". The Economist, "The backlash begins", May 2010
  • Roughly 70% of Arizonans support the state's immigration law. This has been seen in a number of polls, and demonstrates a particularly high level of support for an aggressive approach in Arizona.
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Con

  • Support for Arizona's law is understandable, but misguided "Arizona law will invite racial profiling." Wiked Local. May 3, 2010: "That 70 percent of Arizonans support the measure is no surprise. Arizona and other border states have borne the brunt of the immigration battle. The federal government has failed to enact reasonable immigration reform. Arizona was desperate to do something to stem the tide of people who were entering the state illegally. [...] The cost of an escalating population, whether here legally or not, puts a drain on limited resources. New residents need food, shelter, schools and health care. [...] That doesn’t excuse the actions of Arizona lawmakers. To fix one problem, they’ve created another and unfairly marginalized hundreds of thousands of citizens. [...] Immigration is a federal job, and sadly, it’s a job that has been neglected."


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Pro/con sources

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See also

External links and resources

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