Saturday, May 1, 2010

Misguided Immigration Law in Arizona

The governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer (picture to the right) on April 23, 2009, signed into law - a bill that makes it illegal for immigrants to be in the state of Arizona. While anti-immigration supporters have hailed the new law as an attempt to cut down illegal immigration in Arizona, civil rights and immigration advocates worldwide have expressed concern about the new law - that it endorses discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnicity and will lead to racial profiling. Even the U.S. President - Barack Obama has given the bill a thumbs-down, branding it "misguided". What makes the new [misguided] immigration law in Arizona so controversial?

Without going into the intricacies of the law - it does the following:
  • It criminalizes illegal immigration in the state of Arizona.
  • It calls for legal immigrants in the state to carry documentation to proof their immigration status.
  • The police are required to check anyone with "reasonable suspicion", for evidence of legal status.
The first two points are acceptable, but the last point - that requires police to check the immigration status of people they "suspect" are in the state illegally, is unreasonable and would lead to racial profiling.

Arizona is battling an influx of illegal immigrants from Mexico. It is no secret that the new immigration law seeks to curb illegal immigration from Mexico, hence it exposes Hispanic people to unreasonable police stops for evidence of legal status.

Talking about "reasonable suspicion" and racial profiling - imagine a situation where a group of Hispanics and a group of Caucasians are relaxing on the streets of Phoenix; Which group will be checked by the police with "reasonable suspicion" for evidence of legal status?

Considering the fact that Mexicans are Hispanic and police in Arizona are on the look-out for illegal immigrants from Mexico - the police are more likely to check Hispanics; not Caucasians, for evidence of legal status. Believe it or not!

While it is true that many illegal immigrants will be checked and arrested, it is also true that many Hispanic-Americans and other Hispanics legally residing in the state of Arizona will be racially profiled. Many will be unreasonably stopped and searched by the police - simply because of their ethnicity. On the other hand, many Caucasian illegal immigrants will go unnoticed - because of their ethnicity.

Jan Brewer said the new law was enacted due to Washington's failure to combat illegal immigration.

Does Washington's "failure" to address immigration issues justify the enactment of a law that violates the civil rights and liberties of a group of people?

According to FOX News - President Obama has called on the Justice Department to examine the legal implications of the new immigration law in Arizona. Many immigration rights groups, on their part, have legally challenged the constitutionality of the new law in federal courts.

In my opinion, the new immigration law in Arizona is miserably flawed and clearly legalizes racial profiling. Certain groups of people, especially Hispanics will suffer; while other groups have been given a blank check. By endorsing the unequal treatment of equals, the immigration law undermines the fundamental principle of equality before the law. It is truly a low point in U.S. immigration jurisprudence.

The law should be stayed by federal courts!

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