FilAmStar, News Report, Jun Ilagan
SAN FRANCISCO--There is anger and resolve in Celine Carranza voice everytime she articulates her thoughts about Arizona Senate Bill 1070, by far the nation toughest anti-illegal immigration law.
I don't like it because no matter how the state intends to implement that law, it will always boil down to racial profiling, the 18-year-old high school senior of Scottsdale, one of Arizona's most affluent cities, told FilAm Star. It's just so unfair to people of color.
The U.S.-born daughter of Dr. Rick and Lucille Carranza, and her clique of mostly-white friends, are among the millions in the country today who were quick to judge the law as racist, oppressive, and at best, un-American.
In its original version, the law criminalizes illegal immigration and would allow Arizona police to verify the immigrant status of any person they suspect of being in the country illegally. It also paves the way for lawsuits against government agencies that hinder enforcement and makes it illegal for individuals or firms to hire illegal immigrants for labor or transport them.
No sooner had Arizona's Republican governor, Jan Brewer, wrapped up the historic signing ceremony than an uproar of multi-sectoral protest erupted across the country.
On May 2, the GOP-led Arizona Legislature felt the heat and fine-tuned the law, limiting the immigration status probe only to individuals stopped or apprehended by police for an offense. And in a futile attempt to mask the stench of racism the law is seen to emit, Brewer's office and supporters of SB 1070 issued statements denying that the legislation will lead to racial profiling. They insist that the law specifically prohibits profiling.
Kris Kobach, a law professor at the University of Missouri who helped draft the immigration bill, wrote in the New York Times that a law enforcement official may not solely consider race, color or national origin, in making any stops or determining immigration status.
For much of Arizona's Filipino community of mostly-legal immigrants and naturalized U.S. citizens, such vague assurances are comforting enough, convinced as they are that the law could redound to the benefit of the state and its residents.
Celine's parents, Rick and Lucille, who left the Philippines, first for Canada before finally settling here in the States in 1993, are a case in point.
It is common knowledge that Arizona is the biggest and busiest access point to the U.S. for human and drug smuggling from Mexico, Rick, a physician with Independent Hospitalists in Scottsdale, said to FAS. The problem here, as I see it, is not illegal immigration per se, but the dire consequences that, sadly, tend to be attributed to illegal immigrants.
The Grand Canyon State has an estimated 460,000 illegals and its vast and cruel desert serves as the gateway for the majority of illegal immigrants and drugs moving into the U.S. from Mexico.
Rick paints a grim present-day scenario: Arizona has been suffering from rising criminality. Home invasions are becoming more frequent. Drug sale and abuse are increasingly rampant. Violence is on the rise. Peace of mind is hard to come by nowadays.
An active member of the 50-plus-strong Arizona Society of Philippine Health Professionals, he assured FAS that the majority of his colleagues in the group shares his sentiment.
Still, however, Rick is wary about the likelihood of ill-trained police officers - practically coming in from the cold to enforce immigration law - crossing the line between lawful judgment and bad gut decision.
Beyond that, Lucille said, I don't mind carrying with me my voter's ID always, aside from drivers license, as proof of my citizenship.
Fil-Am couple June and Gina Maamo, who live with their four young children in Queen Creek, 14 miles east of Phoenix, argue they have no problem with the new law either. Only, they can't see how race and skin color could not trigger the probing process.
We are brown-skinned, too, and my wife has very Hispanic features, rues June, a software engineer for the IT/management consulting firm, Results Positive, Inc. For that matter, everyone who isn't white is suspect.
Having arrived in 1996 and lived in three other states (Oregon, Colorado, California) before settling in Arizona six years ago, June claims that never before has he felt so insulted and discriminated, until SB 1070.
How can the local police do well in an inherently federal job, June asks. To begin with, he said, police resources are limited, given the budget constraints, cutbacks, and downsizing the economic slump has brought forth.
So nobody should think for a second that the Arizona police are solidly behind the new law, June added. With so many things on their plate already, they're taking up something that makes them vulnerable to lawsuits. It will drive them crazy, and that's why many of them don't like it either.
Over at Mesa another city of Maricopa County, just like Scottsdale, Queen Creek, and Phoenix Daniel Llorente is taking a more tempered stand.
I think most Filipinos in the state are passively neutral, the 31-year-old computer programmer for Mutual Bank of Omaha told FAS, admitting he himself is on the fence.
Daniel explained that the statement of President Obama could not be taken any other way but as a double-edged dictum.
We are a nation of immigrants, but also a nation of laws, Daniel echoed.
Here's where a full understanding of the immigrants plight must come into play, he pointed out.
Every immigrant had a reason for coming to this country, but the most common one is, to build a better life for themselves and their loved ones here or in their home country he said. In this respect, I couldn't be more compassionate and sympathetic, especially with the illegals who knew from the start the risks and uncertainties involved.
Daniel concedes there is, on the other hand, a reason why laws are made and implemented, and that is, he said, to put order into things, otherwise there will be chaos.
And just like in all other countries, U.S. governments at all levels expect people-- natives and immigrants alike to respect and obey their laws, he added.
Daniel recalls at this juncture how he, his parents, sister, and brother came to the United States in 1990 to try and become immigrants. But things didn't jell as planned.
But instead of staying here illegally, we packed our bags and returned to the Philippines, he narrated. After a while, the petition filed by my grandmother kicked in, and that's when we came back, this time as full-fledged immigrants.
Daniel said the thought of his citizenship being challenged does not bother him and, in fact, will not surprise him at all: he looks more Hispanic than Filipino.
What scares him is the boomerang effect SB 1070 just might produce, in the state governments bid to use it as hedge against criminality.
The possibilities, he said, frighten him: crime victims refusing to seek police help, eyewitnesses not wanting to report a crime, and, ultimately, criminals escaping justice.