Maria de Los Angeles is a US immigrant of Hispanic origin and lives with her family in Arizona. When she had the news that the state’s governor had signed the controversial immigration act into law, just like other Hispanic women, she screamed at the top of her voice. Non immigrant colleagues who worked with her just stared not knowing what to do. Outside her little shop, an angry crowd of Hispanic immigrants were conversing in angry tones reacting to the news. They could not believe that in three months time, when the law becomes effective, their lives will change for the worse and thus they should be preparing for tough times ahead.
A small boy who was listening to their conversations had difficulties in understanding the impact of the law to their lives. This essay seeks to find out the impact of the new immigration law in Arizona and whether it is racially motivated. It was on April, Friday 23 when the governor of Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer passed an immigration law called Support our Law enforcement and safe neighborhood act (Sharp, 2010) which is considered one of the toughest laws in anti immigration crusade. This law has sparked debates on the issue of illegal immigration and criticisms from every corner including from the president himself.
President Obama has termed it as a sign of irresponsibility on the side of the state’s governance and this may apply to all states and thus he calls for reforms to be done on the federal immigration laws as soon as possible in order to avert these kinds of law by states. The signing of the law has also angered the President of Mexico and so many protesters have come out to criticize it. Many have said that the law reminds them of those days when racism was very active in America and thus the law is inviting racism back to their lives (Goodwin, 2010).
What is in this law? The law requires every immigrant to have immigration papers and the police are given that power to ask for them every time they are suspicious of someone as an illegal immigrant. This means that, if they suspect anyone, then they have the power to detain him or her. Any immigrant, who will not be having the immigration papers, will be committing a crime and citizens can actually sue an agency which does not enforce the law. In other words, the police can question anybody irrespective of whether they are committing a crime or not.
Even those who are going on with their legal businesses will be at the mercies of the police so long us they come under suspicion. The law punishes those who are found to be in the country illegally by sentencing them to jail for six months and 2,500 dollars as a fine. These punitive measures are going against the federal punishment of deportation (Goodwin, 2010). What are the impacts of the law? 30% of the Arizona population is Hispanic and illegal immigrants of Hispanic origin make up 80%of all immigrants and thus this law is seen as targeting them.
The law has been criticized because it encourages the police to arrest people based on their looks, leaving out the evidence that they may actually be committing a crime. The governor tried to justify her actions by saying that she tried everything she could on language to avoid enforcement of this law to be based solely on the race, national origin and color of people but critics have revoked the law by saying that it does not lay out the circumstances under which somebody will be detained apart from the mentioned three that is, color, race and national origin (Goodwin, 2010).
Most Americans have also raised their voices against it saying that the law itself is un-American. A senate candidate in Florida, Marco Rubio has said that Americans are not comfortable with the requirement of a group of people carrying documents every where they go. Tom Tancredo, a congress man ,even though he is known to be against illegal immigration, has this time come out to say that the law has gone too far. He said he does not wish for people to be pulled over due to their looks (Goodwin, 2010).
The governor has come out to try to settle the issue by ordering the law enforcers to receive special training on how to implement the law by signing an executive order. In her efforts to fight crimes related to illegal immigration, she would also see into it that the law is not misused to infringe on rights of others. President Obama was against it even before it was signed saying that it will bring distrust between the people and the police (Goodwin, 2010). The opponents of the law have sworn to punish Arizona by targeting the state’s coffers.
San Francisco city has called its residents to bring to an end their business dealings with Arizona and a boycott has also been called of any convention that will take place in Arizona. Some tourists to Arizona cancelled their reservations in protest to the law, swearing that they would not go back there because of the law. It is too early to predict what would happen to the tourism sector in Arizona and economy at large (Archibold, 2010). The law sparked fresh debates on federal immigration law reforms and this made President Obama to call for immediate complete reforms on the law.
The Mexican foreign minister was not left behind in speaking his mind. He said that he is worried about the strained relationship between Mexico and Arizona and also about the Hispanic people and their rights. A Cardinal in Los Angeles termed the requirements of the law as Nazism (Archibold, 2010). The bill has been termed as a rebuke to the former governor of Arizona Janet Napolitano who had supported the bill there prior to her appointment in the Obama’s administration.
Since it seems this law could lead to nation wide immigration debate, then the Hispanic voters could be politically motivated to benefit the democrats, energizing the conservative voters also (Archibold, 2010). The Union of American Civil Liberties has criticized the law as it is out to target the Latinos but the proponents say that the law is a good step towards settling the lawlessness at the US –Mexican border where the federal law enforcers have failed to do so.
Napolitano argues that the law will facilitate siphoning of state’s wealth which is meant to fight the real crimes of the immigrants thus loosing focus (Warren, 2010). The main thing that is being observed is that the law seeks to overshadow the federal law which is the land’s supreme law (Warren, 2010). It seems that the debate will go through talk shows, lines of protests to the floor of the court to know whether states have power to implement laws that for a long time have been the responsibility of the federal government.
Activists have vowed to challenge the law and prevent it from taking effect because it has gone overboard by attacking the authority of the federal government of regulating immigration and empowering the police, giving them too much power. When the law takes effect in July it that means anyone who is found in America illegally would be committing a crime. If one looks like a foreigner or sounds like it, then he will be subjected to lots of questioning by the police to confirm their citizenship (CBS interactive Inc, 2010). Some legal migrants will also find themselves in these kinds of treatments despite their citizenship.
Some police departments say that the law would make it difficult to solve crimes because the moment you stop people and question them, this would not go down well with the immigrants and some of them will refuse to cooperate in solving crimes (CBS Interactive Inc, 2010). The republicans and the Democrats have found themselves in hot soup after the law was past. This is a very delicate issue which they did not want to deal with before the midterm elections of the congress because it involves a lot of emotions. The politicians are not the only ones who were affected but even students.
In the University of Arizona, students started to withdraw in protest to the law and this prompted its president to write a letter to the school since it had lost so many students. The parents of these students had decided to send them to schools in other states and those who wanted admission to the school withdrew their applications (Binckes, 2010). Republicans have a reason to worry because it seems the Latinos will be in favor of democrats (Sharp, 2010). Since Arizona harbors 460,000 illegal immigrants, the law thus criminalizes their presence in the state.
Another effect of the law is that day laborers will have a tough time because citizens are forbidden from employing them and anyone who is found to be ferrying illegal immigrants even if it is a member of the family, they will face the law (Goldman, 2010). Some proponents of this law have said that it is a big step in that it encourages other states and local governments to assert themselves when it comes to immigration issues. States have gotten tired of waiting for the federal government to enforce laws on immigration hence, just like other states which have enacted laws to protect their citizens, Arizona had to do it.
In other words, the passing of this law is like telling the Americans to stop waiting for the feds to come to their aid when issues get out of hand. The feds were being told that the states and the local governments were not pleased by what they had to offer (Mcneill, 2010). Is the law racially motivated? Texas law maker, Debbie Riddle has disqualified those who call this law a racially motivated one and that they are up to no good for they are out to divert the attention of the citizens for personal selfish gains (Friedman, 2010).
Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state thinks otherwise. She says that the law encourages racial profiling and that the state has overstepped its mandate by trying to impose its laws on people. She says that, racism comes in when the police will be questioning people based on their accents (Political News, 2010). Immigrants’ rights project’s director Mr. Lucas Guttentag says that the law will lead to an increased racial discrimination and profiling of anyone who looks like an immigrant. A former attorney general of Arizona Mr.
Grant Woods, said that this law would make people be subjected to profiling because of their color but Mr. Kobach, a law professor disagrees with these two by saying that there is no such provision in the law because the police have been told clearly in the law that they should not base their suspicions solely on race. However, the use of the word solely here has been regarded by some lawyers as giving authority to discriminate or do profiling based on race with the condition that the government is not 100% motivated racially (Schwartz & Archibold, 2010).
Sean Hannity and his fox news colleague Sarah Palin have revoked the claim that the law would lead to racism even though the law allows the police to consider race in their profiling. For Hannity, he says that the law does not encourage profiling but it actually forbids it. Palin on her part says that there is no opportunity in the law for racial profiling and that lame media should be ashamed for terming the law what it is not; this also applies to the Obama administration since they hold the same views. She is also supported by Mr. Kobach on this view.
The law forces the police to make contacts with the federal government to check the status of the immigrants whether they are in the country legally or illegally and this actually reduces racial profiling (Media Matters for America, 2010). The law states that when a person is arrested, his status is checked before he is released. The problem that brings these views’ diversities in the law is that there is no agreement on what is meant by racial profiling. Some say it is when one relies on race and others say when one solely relies on race.
The former is the broad meaning and the latter is the narrow meaning. The narrow meaning is not accepted by the Union of American civil liberty because it does not include other racial profiling which is still going on in the country (Media Matters for America, 2010). Some argue that, if the law is allowed to be effective, American would be making a very huge mistake that they will regret for a very long time. The draconian law as it is called by some people is a racial profiling sponsored by the government.
The Arizona governor is said to contradict herself especially when it comes to the topic on profiling and some have asked the question whether racial profiling should be ruled out when race combined with other factor, are considered to determine suspicion. So, does it mean that racial profiling refers to only those situations when race is the only factor considered in determining a reasonable suspicion? (Bonner, 2010) In conclusion, from the impacts of the law it can be observed that the law will not only affect the illegal immigrants from Mexico but also anyone who is an alien in America including Africans who find themselves in Arizona.
The debate is still on, on whether the law is actually racially motivated or not. The Arizona’s governor has made futile attempts to persuade the Americans that the law is actually constitutional but so many people have vowed to challenge the law in court or try to block its implementation. The courts are the ones which will determine whether the law is racially motivated or not. The question that most Americans are still asking themselves is how does an illegal immigrant look like?
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