Arizona lawmakers on Tuesday approved what foes and supporters agree is the toughest measure in the country against illegal immigrants, directing local police to determine whether people are in the country legally.
The measure, long sought by opponents of illegal immigration, passed 35 to 21 in the state House of Representatives.
The state Senate passed a similar measure earlier this year, and Republican Gov. Jan Brewer is expected to sign the bill.
The bill’s author, State Sen. Russell Pearce, said it simply “takes the handcuffs off of law enforcement and lets them do their job.”
But police were deeply divided on the matter, with police unions backing it but the state police chief’s association opposing the bill, contending it could erode trust with immigrants who could be potential witnesses.
Immigrant rights groups were horrified, and contended that Arizona would be transformed into a police state.
“It’s beyond the pale,” said Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “It appears to mandate racial profiling.”
The bill, known as SB 1070, makes it a misdemeanor to lack proper immigration paperwork in Arizona. It also requires police officers, if they form a “reasonable suspicion” that someone is an illegal immigrant, to determine the person’s immigration status.
Citizens can sue to compel police agencies to comply with the law, and no city or agency can formulate a policy directing its workers to ignore the law–a provision that advocates say prevents so-called sanctuary orders that police not inquire about people’s immigration status.
“A lot of U.S. citizens are going to be swept up in the application of this law for something as simple as having an accent and leaving their wallet at home,” said Alessandra Soler Meetze, president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona.
The ACLU and other groups have vowed to sue to block the bill from taking effect should Brewer sign it. They note that a federal court struck down a New Hampshire law in 2005 that said illegal immigrants were trespassing, declaring that only the federal government has the authority to enforce immigration. Another provision of the Arizona law, which makes day laborers illegal, violates the 1st Amendment, critics contend.
“Illegal immigration brings crime, kidnapping, drugs–drains our government services,” said Rep. John Kavanagh, a Republican. “Nobody can stand on the sidelines and not take part in this battle.”
Democrats were just as passionate. “This bill, whether we intend it or not, terrorizes the people we profit from,” said Rep. Tom Chabin.
Immigrant rights groups Wednesday slammed Arizona lawmakers after they approved a bill which will allow police officers to determine whether suspects are in the United States legally.
Arizona’s House of Representatives passed the bill by a margin of 35 votes to 21 during a session on Tuesday, the legislature’s website showed, mirroring a similar measure passed by the border state’s Senate earlier this year.
The bill will now proceed to Arizona’s Republican Governor Jan Brewer to be signed into law.
The bill makes it a misdemeanor offense for an individual to lack proper immigration paperwork and also allows police officers to determine someone’s immigration status if they believe he or she could be an illegal immigrant.
Currently police can only ask about an individual’s immigration status if they are suspected of involvement in another crime.
However critics say the bill will transform Arizona into a “police state” and even sections of law enforcement have voiced fears it could harm relations between police and the immigrant community.
Chris Newman, Legal Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, which campaigns on behalf of day laborers in the United States, called on Governor Brewer to veto the bill, which he described as “odious” and “unwise.”
“Arizona is on the verge of enacting the most anti-immigrant legislation the country has seen in a generation,” Newman said in a statement.
“We are hopeful Governor Brewer will consult with her legal counsel, issue a veto, and spare Arizona the expense of defending an unconstitutional, unwise, and odious bill in federal courts.
“Arizona has long been a laboratory for anti-immigrant experimentation, and its demagogue leaders have become folk heros for white supremacists throughout the United States, but this bill ushers in a new chapter of disgrace for the state that resisted celebrating the life of Martin Luther King.”