Last week, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed tough immigration enforcement legislation (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, April 19, 2010) into law. Amnesty supporters have expressed outrage at the new law, which they claim is fueled by “anti-immigrant hysteria.” (See, e.g., AZFamily News, April 13, 2010).
Even before Governor Brewer announced she would sign SB 1070, amnesty proponents filled the airwaves and cyberspace with incendiary and hyperbolic rhetoric in an attempt to whip up opposition. Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, claimed the bill “appears to mandate racial profiling” (Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2010). Reform Immigration for America–an umbrella group of pro-amnesty organizations–radically claims that the bill “enshrines hate into our country’s laws.” (See Reform Immigration for America’s Blog). Another well-known pro-amnesty group, America’s Voice, featured on its website a blog posting entitled “What the #$@!, Arizona?”, which claims that that the bill is “inhumane” and “would discriminate against Latinos.” (See America’s Voice Blog, April 22, 2010). Not to be outdone, Cardinal Roger Mahony suggested that Arizonans were “now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of documentation.” (Cardinal Roger Mahony Blogs L.A., April 18, 2010). The Rev. Al Sharpton has said that he is ready to travel to Arizona and march in the streets to protest the new law. (The Washington Post, April 25, 2010).
But, counter to these claims, Arizona’s law provides a carefully crafted set of rules that proscribe how Arizona law enforcement officers are to inquire about immigration status. First, an Arizona law enforcement officer must engage in lawful contact with the individual in question. (SB 1070, §2). That means that the stop or contact must survive any challenge with respect to the 4th Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Then, if an officer has conducted a lawful stop, the officer must also have “reasonable suspicion” that an individual is unlawfully present before inquiring about immigration status. (Id.). Importantly, the Arizona law expressly states that a law enforcement official “may not solely consider race, color, or national origin” in implementing this provision, including forming a reasonable suspicion. (Id.)
Then, if an Arizona law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion that the person is an alien unlawfully present in the United States, the officer must make a “reasonable attempt . . . when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person.” (SB 1070, §2). Importantly, SB 1070 creates a presumption of lawful presence if an individual presents: (1) a valid Arizona driver’s license, (2) a valid Arizona I.D. card, (3) a valid tribal I.D. card, and (4) any valid federal or state I.D. that requires proof of legal presence before issuance. If the officer verifies with ICE that the person is an illegal alien the officer may (1) hold the alien for transfer to federal custody pursuant to an ICE detainer; if the officer has probable cause to believe the person “has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States,” the person may be arrested without a warrant. §6. Finally, SB 1070 requires that these provisions be implemented in a manner that is consistent with all federal immigration and civil rights laws. (Id.).
Commenting on SB 1070 Friday, President Obama first acknowledged that his administration has failed to stop illegal immigration, but then condemned Arizona–one of the states hit hardest by the federal government’s failures–for attempting to find a solution: “Our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others. That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona.” (CNN, April 23, 2010). Calling the new law “misguided,” Obama then noted that he has “instructed members of [his] administration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation.” (Id.). Obama concluded: “But if we continue to fail to act at the federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country.” (Id.). Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has called the Arizona bill “misguided” as well. (ABC News, April 26, 2010).
Mexican officials have condemned the new law, as well. (The Hill, April 24, 2010). Noting that the government of Mexico had lobbied against passage of the Arizona bill, Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Patricia Espinosa said: “The government of Mexico regrets that, despite the overtures made at all levels by Mexican federal and state officials, the legislators who passed this measure and the governor of Arizona have not taken into account the valuable contributions of migrants to the economy, society and culture of Arizona and the United States of America.” (Id.). Espinsoa continued: “Criminalization is not the way to resolve undocumented immigration. The existence of cross-border labor markets requires comprehensive, long-term solutions. Shared responsibility, trust and mutual respect must be the bases for addressing the shared challenges in North America.” (Id.). In addition, the Mexican Senate passed a unanimous resolution urging Governor Brewer to veto the bill just prior to her signing it into law. (Id.).
A new poll from Rasmussen Reports indicates that the attitudes expressed by Obama and other opponents of the new law are not indicative of the attitudes of the people of Arizona. The poll found “70% of likely voters in Arizona approve of the legislation, while just 23% oppose it.” (Rasmussen Reports, April 21, 2010). FAIR President Dan Stein commented on Governor Brewer signing the bill into law: “Faced with mounting costs, lost jobs and violent crime resulting from mass illegal immigration, Gov. Brewer has acted responsibly to protect Arizonans. In signing S.B. 1070, Gov. Brewer has responded to the will of the people and risen above the incendiary rhetoric of those who are maliciously attempting to divide Arizonans along ethnic lines.” (Press Release, April 23, 2010).