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Immigration Advocates: AZ's New Anti-Immigrant Law Enshrines Racial Profiling

 

Washington, DC - On April 13, the Arizona House of Representatives approved a law that makes it a crime for undocumented immigrants to be in Arizona, gives police the authority to investigate the immigration status of any person they encounter if they have "reasonable suspicion" that the person is in the country illegally, and permits citizens to sue if they believe that the law is not being enforced.  A similar bill has already passed the Arizona Senate and a reconciled version of the two bills will likely progress to the Governor's desk for signature.  The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a non-partisan pro-immigrant advocacy organization based in Washington.

 

The Arizona House and Senate have passed the most extreme anti-immigrant legislation in the country.  We urge the Governor to veto the bill.

 

This misguided, and possibly unconstitutional, legislation represents several steps in the wrong direction on the question of how to respond to our broken immigration system.  If the bill survives substantial legal challenges, it will invite the racial profiling of Arizona residents who give police "reasonable suspicion" that they are in the country illegally.  Pressure to engage in racial profiling will be even more intense because police will be operating under the threat of law suits from citizens who feel they are not sufficiently enforcing the law.

 

If it is enacted, it will be bad news for Arizona.  Under this law, Police will not be able to count on Arizona's large Latino and immigrant community to report crimes or serve as witnesses to crimes.   Indeed, the Arizona Police Chiefs Association opposed the measure-as did business groups, faith leaders, local governments, and Arizonans from all walks of life.  If enacted, this bill will be expensive for Arizona taxpayers, who will be paying for the state to defend it against lawsuits challenging the bill's constitutionality.  It will also distract law enforcement in Arizona from more serious work that does keep communities safe.  If Arizona lawmakers sought to chill public interaction and civic engagement in their state, they will achieve it with this legislation by making criminal suspects out of innocent people.

 

The Arizona bill is a dramatic illustration of the chaos being created by the failure of Congress to reform our broken immigration system.  The consequences of that failure will be felt more than ever by native-born residents and immigrants alike.  What will give police "reasonable suspicion" that a person is in the country illegally?  Most likely, the color of their skin.

 

The Obama administration and Secretary Napolitano must reassert federal authority and Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform this year. 

 

Contact: Katherine Vargas

cell (202) 641-5198



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