You’ve heard of hate speech. Now the Arizona legislature has given the nation “hate legislation” which reads more like a law passed in Nuremberg, Germany in 1935 than in Phoenix in 2010.
If implemented S.B. 1070 would transform Arizona into an oppressive police state for foreign nationals and U.S. citizens alike. The bill includes a smorgasbord of draconian provisions aimed at criminalizing noncitizens and dehumanizing anyone who doesn’t look, act, or speak like an American—whatever that is. For example, the law requires that state officials determine the immigration status of a person they encounter in the course of their work if “reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S. In effect, the act compels law enforcement to conduct racial profiling of all people in the state, including U.S. citizens. What, after all, is “reasonable suspicion” of alienage? Is it the inability to speak English? Is it a shade of skin color other than white? Is it facial features that suggest Asian or Latino ethnicity? And how would “reasonable suspicion” be enforced? If a traffic crossing guard encounters a child walking to school who doesn’t speak English, say a Puerto Rican child who just moved with her family to Phoenix from San Juan, is the officer now obligated to check the child’s papers or call her parents’ and ask about immigration status?
Another provision permits a law enforcement officer, without a warrant, to arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the individual removable from the U.S. So, now an Arizona street cop has the right to unilaterally decide whether a particular offense is one for which a person could be deported. Apparently, no one in the Arizona legislature has read the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Padilla v. Kentucky which points out that immigration law is so complex that even trained experts have difficulty determining which offenses lead to deportation. Nor, apparently, did the Arizona lawmakers bother to read the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which protects us all from unreasonable searches and seizures.
And it gets worse. Another provision criminalizes any long-term lawful permanent resident if he or she is on any public or private land in the state and but not carrying his or her alien registration card. Thus, a green card holder who goes out to his front yard in his bathrobe on a Sunday morning to fetch the newspaper is a criminal if he doesn’t carry his green card with him to the end of the driveway and back.
And the list goes on.
The passage of S.B. 1070 is especially disturbing in light of the recent OIG report which highlights serious civil rights abuses in the notorious 287(g) program which is administered by ICE and “deputizes” state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration law. As AILA pointed out in its statement of April 1, 2010 calling on DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to immediately terminate the 287(g) program, the OIG report documents ICE’s failure to properly administer 287(g). It describes abuses of power by local officials under the watchful eye of ICE, including tales of local officers arresting individuals who have committed no offense – including even victims – for the sole purpose of identifying whether they have lawful immigration status. Clearly, enforcement of the immigration laws by local officials in concert with ICE has been an abject failure. Worse, it has served as a tool for hate mongers such as Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to conduct systematic racial profiling and civil rights violations in Latino communities. The frightening thing is that the 287(g) program, which purports to contain procedural safeguards, is child’s play compared to S.B. 1070.
Nor can the passage of S.B. 1070 be separated from the overall crisis in immigration enforcement nationwide as demonstrated by ICE’s record of neglect, abuse, and deaths of detainees in ICE detention. As I have written in earlier blogs, some of the horrific tales of ICE malfeasance fit neatly into the annals of the world’s most oppressive regimes, including the plight of Boubacar Bah, who, after mysteriously suffering a skull fracture, was handcuffed by ICE officials while writhing in agony in his own vomit on the floor of a New Jersey detention center, then locked-up in an isolation cell for 13 hours without medical treatment and, finally, transported to a hospital in a coma where he later died, (See Secret Horror Stories: ICE Officials Hid The Truth About Immigrant Deaths In Detention http://bit.ly/4tdHDt).
I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of the hatred and of the failure of the Administration and Congress to fix our dysfunctional immigration system. We must demand that all our elected officials, state and federal alike, stop the political grandstanding and dangerous demagoguery and come up with real solutions to fix the broken immigration system that plagues this country. As hate filled and mean spirited as S.B. 1070 is, it is not the problem. It is just one more ugly symptom of Congress’ failure to do its job and create a functional immigration system. Congress must put politics aside, roll up its sleeves, and get to the hard work of building a safe, orderly, and fair immigration policy that will meet the needs of American business and families and give our nation the tools it needs to break out of this recession and ensure its competitive edge into the 21st Century.