Friday 30 April 2010

Is the State of Arizona’s new immigration law too harsh?

The writing of this article was not an easy one because of the complexity of the issues involved. I am sure that many will disagree with my conclusions but be assured that I have given this matter considerable thought and the conclusions I have reached were sincerely thought out before I put them to paper.

The illegal immigrant population of the United States in 2008 was estimated by the Center for Immigration Studies to be about 11 million people.

Most observers agree that the primary motivation for illegal immigration in the United States is the lure of jobs. However, they disagree on what effect immigrants have on the economy and on American workers with whom they may compete for employment.

Glynn Custred is a professor of anthropology at California State University at Hayward. His viewpoint on illegal immigration is that American communities bordering Mexico have been adversely affected by illegal immigration. He blames illegal immigrants for increased instances of litter, property vandalism, crime, drug smuggling, and problems related to employment.

Arizona has more illegal border crossings than any other state. The state is home to an estimated 460,000 Mexican illegal immigrants who cross the border between Mexico and the United States. They either cross directly into Arizona from Mexico or they enter that state after having crossed the borders of Mexico and California, New Mexico and Texas.

Arizona is the nation's busiest gateway for human and drug smuggling from Mexico. In the absence of federal enforcement, Arizona has taken matters into its own hands, and it's managed to get Washington's attention in the process.

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who was in San Francisco for the 50th anniversary of the Mission Neighborhood Centers on April 23, 2010 but everyone wanted to know what she thought of Arizona's new immigration law. She said; "The law that was signed today in Arizona really does violence to basic American principles, but also points clearly to the need for us to have comprehensive immigration reform."

President Barack Obama has asked the Justice Department to study if the bill is legal. "The recent efforts in Arizona which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans." The White House would not rule out the possibility that the administration would take legal action against Arizona. President Barack Obama, who warned last week that the measure could lead to police abuses, asked the Justice Department to complete a review of the law's implications before deciding how to proceed.

During a town hall meeting in Tucson, Arizona, Governor Brewer dismissed the threat of a boycott, saying she doesn't believe the law is "going to have the kind of economic impact that some people think it might," the Arizona Daily Star reported. She added that outrage over the ability of police to ask people for citizenship documentation will fade.

Since the Arizona legislature passed the ‘Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act’, a bill which will probably end up establishing the harshest set of state immigration laws in the country, Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer’s phone has been reportedly ringing off the hook with residents encouraging her to either sign or veto Senate Bill 1070. She signed the bill into law on April 23, 2010. It is best known as simply Arizona SB1070. It goes into effect in August 2010. The measure -- would make it a crime under state law to be in Arizona illegally. It directs state and local police to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegal.

Now that it is signed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, the legislation will require police to question people about their immigration status if there's reason to suspect they're in the country illegally. Civil rights activists say such a law would lead to racial profiling and deter Hispanics from reporting crimes.
Both sides agree the immigration system is broken, but Arizona's solution is not the fix everyone will agree on. Arizona's harsh new immigration law is being watched very closely in California and in Washington D.C. Section B of the contentious law is as follows;


Under the new Arizona law, immigrants unable to produce documents showing they are allowed to be in the U.S. could be arrested, jailed for up to six months and fined $2,500. That is a significant escalation of the typical federal punishment for being here illegally which is deportation. Of course, simply deporting the illegal aliens without first punishing them is pointless because the day after they are deported, they are illegally back in the U.S. again.

Creating a law that permits the police to say to anyone on the street, “Let me see your papers” could bring back memories of the days during the era of the previous Nazi Third Reich when it functioned in Europe. Sheriff Arpaio can impound your car if the person you picked up is riding with you doesn’t have their citizenship papers and is suspected of being an illegal alien. Some people will argue that the law, which will make it a crime under state law to be an illegal immigrant, (which it is anyway under federal law) opens the door to intolerance, hate, discrimination and abuse in law enforcement.

Currently, many U.S. police departments do not ask about people's immigration status unless they have run afoul of the law in some other way. Many police departments say stopping and questioning people will only discourage immigrants from cooperating to solve crimes. I would be remiss however if I didn’t mention that generally many immigrants don’t cooperate with the police anyway so that argument is moot.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has already predicted that the bill will “exacerbate the problem of racial profiling” which “raises concerns about the prolonged detention of citizens and legal residents.” Given the fact that police officers could arrest anyone who cannot immediately prove they are legally present in the U.S., the New York Times concludes that it “means if you are brown-skinned and leave home without a wallet, you are in trouble.” Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles has called the new Arizona statute “the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant law.”

In Arizona (as everywhere else in the U.S.) it is now a crime to be in the country illegally and local police are required to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are undocumented. Critics say that is racial profiling. "The law says a policeman should come to somebody and ask him about his legal status, well what does that mean? It means he's brown," immigration attorney Mark Silverman said. "If you're Latino in Arizona, you're going to have a target on your back," Supervisor David Campos said.

The crux of opponents' arguments is that only the federal government has the authority to regulate immigration. Kevin Johnson, dean of the law school at the University of California-Davis and an immigration law professor, said such a lawsuit would have a very good chance of success. He said the state law gets into legal trouble by giving local law enforcement officers the authority to enforce the nations'immigration laws.

"If every state had its own laws, we wouldn't be one country; we'd be 50 different countries," said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Richard Oltman is with ‘Californians for Population Stabilization’. He believes other states will have to follow Arizona's example because there is no incentive for reform at the federal level. He said, "There is no opinion at the federal level to enforce the laws because business has access to cheap labor and they want the new customers they become with the first paycheck."

The Arizona law also makes it illegal to hire undocumented workers for day labor or knowingly transport them.

The furor over Arizona's new law cracking down on illegal immigrants grew as opponents used refried beans to smear swastikas on the state Capitol, civil rights leaders demanded a boycott of the state, and the Obama administration weighed a possible legal challenge.

Activists are planning a challenge of their own, hoping to block the law from taking effect by arguing that it encroaches on the federal government's authority to regulate immigration and violates people's constitutional rights by giving police too much power.

"If you look or sound foreign, you are going to be subjected to never-ending requests for police to confirm your identity and to confirm your citizenship," said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, which is exploring legal action.

People arrested by Arizona police would be turned over to federal immigration officers. Opponents said the federal government could thwart the law by refusing to accept them. If that were to happen, then Arizona would be faced with the problem of bearing the expense of imprisoning them and later deporting them.

The crux of opponents' arguments is that only the federal government has the authority to regulate immigration. "If every state had its own laws, we wouldn't be one country; we'd be 50 different countries," said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Kevin Johnson, dean of the law school at the University of California-Davis and an immigration law professor, said such a lawsuit would have a very good chance of success. He said the state law gets into legal trouble by giving local law enforcement officers the authority to enforce immigration laws. "States can't give them that power," Johnson said. "The federal government could if it wanted to, but it hasn't." Johnson said opponents could also argue that the law could violate their Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure because it gives police officers broad authority to determine who should be questioned.

In a statement given by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, she said that the state's new law would probably hinder law enforcement in dealing with more serious crimes. She said, "They would have diverted critical law enforcement resources from the most serious threats to public safety and undermined the vital trust between local jurisdictions and the communities they serve." Napolitano vetoed similar proposals when she was Arizona governor.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera urged policymakers in the city to stop dealing with Arizona and Arizona businesses. Leaders in Mexico and California also demanded a boycott, as did civil rights leader Al Sharpton. A rally protesting an immigration crackdown on a San Francisco janitorial company was planned before Arizona's law passed, but it was the perfect platform for the city's condemnation of the new law.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera says his office will help the city put its money where its mouth is, and divest from Arizona. City attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey said. "The city attorney has also offered the legal services of his office whether it is writing amicus briefs or advising anybody who would seek to challenge the Arizona law to strike it down."

City leaders in San Francisco are calling for a boycott of the state of Arizona and Arizona-based businesses. It's a reaction to that state's tough new immigration law; a law that has re-ignited a national debate. San Francisco supervisors are calling Arizona's new law "draconian" and "hostile." And they're hoping to punish Arizona for it by pulling the plug on any city money now being spent there, though the city attorney's office couldn't say yet how much is at stake. "We will be introducing a resolution at the Board of Supervisors that calls for a citywide boycott of the state of Arizona," San Francisco Supervisor David Campos said.

San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon was the Mesa, Arizona police chief for three years before moving to San Francisco. In Mesa, he studied the connection between illegal immigration and crime. "Are there people that are coming to this country that are involved in the drug trade? Unquestionably they are. Are most of the people who come here illegally involved in the drug trade? Of course not. Most of the people who cross the border without authority are coming here to work," he said. But that is where the problem lies. Thousands of citizens of that state are unemployed because employers are hiring cheaper labour by hiring illegal aliens to do the work instead.

Gascon says the new law will wipe out years of good faith built between police and the immigrant community and he says the mostly under-funded Arizona police departments will have to transfer their focus from crime-fighting to immigration enforcement.

The legitimate immigrants who have landed status in Arizona should be pleased with the new law because it will mean that jobs that they apply for will not be taken by illegal aliens.

Seventy Southern California truck drivers stated they were refusing to move loads in or out of Arizona. They said that they would participate in a five-day boycott.
I find this reaction in San Francisco rather strange considering the fact that in 2008; there were as many as two and a half million illegal aliens in that state alone. What is that state doing to solve their problem?

Mexican President Felipe Calderon condemned Arizona's tough new immigration law as discriminatory and warned that relations with the U.S. border state will suffer. He said that he has instructed his Foreign Relations Department to double its efforts to protect the rights of Mexicans living in the United States and seek help from lawyers and immigration experts. he said in a speech at the Institute for Mexicans Abroad, "Nobody can sit around with their arms crossed in the face of decisions that so clearly affect our countrymen," Calderon said that the Arizona law restored immigration to the forefront of U.S.-Mexico relations, which had largely been focused on deeper cooperation in the drug war. Calderon said he would raise his concerns with President Barack Obama and U.S. lawmakers during a visit to Washington in May.

Calderon said trade and political ties with Arizona will be "seriously affected," although he announced no concrete measures. Mexican politicians, church leaders and others have criticized Calderon for not taking a tougher stance against the law. Some Mexican legislators have urged a trade boycott against Arizona, and several called the federal government's response lukewarm. "In Congress, we support any trade and transport boycott necessary to reverse this law," said Oscar Martin Arce, a lawmaker from the president's National Action Party.

Mexico is Arizona's largest foreign market. The U.S. state sent $4.5 billion in exports to Mexico in 2009 -- nearly a third of its total exports, according to the U.S. International Trade Administration. A Mexican boycott would be foolish and would seriously damage the already weak economy of Mexico. It simply won’t happen.
Andres Ibarra, president of the chamber of commerce in Nogales, a Mexican city across the border from Nogales, Arizona, said he doubted the government would impose a formal trade boycott, saying it would hurt Mexico most. Even so, he warned the immigration law would harm Arizona economically. Ibarra said the U.S. state depends heavily on cheap labor from Mexican immigrants and any surge in deportations would make the state less competitive.

Ibarra added, "It's regrettable. I think this was a hasty decision that did not consider the consequences, not only for Mexicans and undocumented people from other countries, but also for the Arizona economy. Immigrants, as everyone knows, do the work that Americans don't want to do. This campaign is completely based on racism. It's a xenophobic campaign."

That is true. Illegal immigrants do much of the work that many American’s don’t want to do but that doesn’t justify hiring illegal immigrants to do the work Americans won’t do. If the Americans who don’t want to do some forms of work that is offered to them, then let them beg on the streets for a living.

The chief of the Organization of American States also criticized the legislation. "We consider the bill clearly discriminatory against immigrants, and especially against immigrants from Latin America," Jose Miguel Insulza said during a visit to El Salvador.

The Arizona law comes as relations between Mexico and the U.S. had been steadily warming. Washington is a strong supporter of Calderon's military-led offensive against drug cartels, providing training and equipment under the $1.3 billion Merida Initiative. The Obama administration has earned praise from Mexico for repeatedly acknowledging that U.S. drug consumption is a large part of the problem.

Two weeks ago, Michelle Obama chose Haiti and Mexico for her first solo trip abroad as U.S. first lady. She nurtured a friendship with Mexican first lady Margarita Zavala, a vocal advocate for thousands of Mexican children who immigrate alone to the U.S. in search of their parents and are often deported unaccompanied.

The cooperation in the drug war had largely overshadowed lingering tensions between the two countries over immigration. The Calderon government expressed disappointment when U.S. lawmakers failed to agree in 2007 on an overhaul to the U.S. immigration

The Obama administration has promised to make immigration reform a priority, but the issue has taken a back seat amid the U.S. economic crisis. He criticized Arizona's tough immigration bill as irresponsible and said his administration is examining whether it would violate civil rights. Obama has called the Arizona law misguided and instructed the U.S. Justice Department to examine it to see if it's legal.

Obama admits however that the federal government must act responsibly to reform national immigration law -- or "open the door to irresponsibility by others. He added, "That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

Obama said he will continue to work with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to enact a comprehensive overhaul of immigration law. He said there are 11 current Republican senators who have voted for immigration reform in the past. "If we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country," Obama said. "As a nation, as a people, we can choose a different future."

Many Americans have expressed support for legal immigration while calling for more enforcement against illegal immigration. Krikorian who directs the ‘Center for Immigration Studies’, a research organization based in Washington, D.C., argues that such an approach is flawed. Legal and illegal immigration are not two separate issues, he contends, but are instead part of the same process. He says that America must lower the number of legal immigrants allowed to come here in order to curb illegal immigration.

The Arizona law has strong public support in Arizona, where passions have been running high since a rancher was killed close to the Mexican border last month, apparently by drug smugglers from across the border.

Supporters of the law said that the law is necessary to protect Arizonans from crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Arizona is home to an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants and is the nation's busiest gateway for people slipping into the country. Supporters of the law say it is necessary to protect Arizonans from a litany of crimes that they contend are committed by illegal immigrants. The law doesn’t make criminals out of Hispanics, only illegal immigrants.

It’s not racial profiling at all, with 36 million estimated to be currently living in the United States. Amnesty has already been given to 16 million Hispanics living in the U.S.

Senator John McCain, a Republican senator for Arizona told reporters today that the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act" is "a very important step forward." "I can fully understand why the legislature would want to act."
Josh Moenning makes a sharp distinction between legal and illegal immigration. America has a long tradition of immigration, he argues, and legal immigrants can both benefit themselves and enrich the nation. However, illegal immigration can lead to social problems such as crime and the formation of prejudices against minorities. The United States must take steps to control illegal immigration in part to ensure the future of legal immigration.

There is nothing in this bill about race. It’s about security. This bill is forced on Arizona because the federal government will not up hold it constitutional duty and secure the boarders. In fact it will not even enforce the laws on the books. Those in Arizona must take action to protect themselves from the drug lords and terrorists that are coming across the boarder and destroying their state. So if the Feds will not enforce the law then the state of Arizona is forced to do so itself. The Arizona governor promises she will not tolerate racial profiling or discrimination.

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the bill, said that Arizona must act because Washington has failed to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs from Mexico. Brewer has ordered state officials to develop a training course for officers to learn what constitutes reasonable suspicion that someone is in the U.S. illegally.
However, Gerald Neuman, a Harvard Law School professor, said Arizona could make a compelling legal argument that it has overlapping authority to protect its residents.

Kris Kobach, a University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor who helped write the Arizona legislation, said he anticipated legal challenges and carefully drafted the language. He said the state law is only prohibiting conduct already illegal under federal law.

The law, set to take effect in August, 2010 will require police to question people about their immigration status if they suspect they are there illegally. Day laborers can be arrested for soliciting work if they are in the U.S. illegally, and police departments can be sued if they don't carry out the law.
The problem facing the police and the public in general in Arizona is; how do you identify the illegal Hispanics if not through the ability to stop, search and question? Don’t forget it’s already illegal for them to be in the U.S. no matter where these illegals are from so their rights are not being infringed upon. The problem is when the police stop, search and question legitimate Hispanics on the streets who have the right to live and work in the United States.

The concern I have is that some police officers will stop anyone, be they Hispanics or not, to search and question them wherever they are, on the pretense that they look like illegal immigrants. Don’t for a moment think that such abuses won’t happen. They will.

I believe that the way to solve this illegal immigration problem is to go after the employers who hire illegal aliens so that they can pay them less than what they would pay legitimate residents in that state. At present, a federal law only fines them $1,000 for each illegal aliens found working for them. I think the fine should be $5,000 for the first offence for each illegal alien found working for them and $10,000 for the second time they are found working in their firms and $20,000 for every offence being committed after that. It may bankrupt the company but when the other companies see companies going under because of the fines, they will be very hesitant about hiring illegal aliens. Eventually, illegal aliens will have no real purpose of slipping into Arizona in the dead of night to find work because work will not be available to them.

If a corporation is found to be guilty a second time of hiring an illegal alien, the person who hired the illegal alien should be arrested and charged and if found guilty, be sent to jail for a minimum of six months for the first offence, a year for a second offence and two years for a third and subsequent offences. The CEO of any company that hires an illegal alien should face the same penalties as the person in the firm who hired the illegal alien.

If a householder hires an illegal alien to do housework for the family, then the fines should be the same and the fines, if not paid, will be deducted from the homeowner’s pay or alternatively placed as a lien against the property.

Any illegal alien caught working in any manner whatsoever and being paid for his or her work, should be arrested and if convicted, sentenced to six months in jail doing hard labour. For a second offence, the sentence should be for one year and for a third and subsequent offences, two years in prison.

Further, special confinement centers should be set up so that instead of being imprisoned in air-conditioned buildings, they have to serve their time in large tents with only fans cooling them off. Their food should be very basic and the work being meaningless such as moving dirt from one end of a prison yard to the other end, repeatedly, day after day except on Sundays. If they refuse to work, then they should serve their time in solitary confinement. Perhaps this kind of punishment will deter them.

My suggestions are harsh indeed but nothing else seems to work.

If an illegal alien slips into the country to merely visit relatives and for no other purpose and they are discovered, they should be immediately deported and denied legal entry for one year. If they do it a second time, the denial of entry should be for five years after serving six months in jail. If they do it a third time, then the denial of entry should be for ten years and they should serve a year in jail before being deported. If they do it again, then the denial of entry should be permanent and they should serve two years in jail before being deported.

Now I will deal with the contentious issue of the police questioning people at random they suspect are illegal aliens.

First of all, I see a major constitutional problem here. If the only people being pulled over are Hispanics, or for that matter, people who even look like they are Hispanics, then this conflicts with the constitutional guarantee in the United States that no person or group will be denied protection under the law as is enjoyed by similar persons or groups, such as the right to walk the streets unmolested by the police. In other words, persons similarly situated must be treated similarly. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibits states from denying any person the equal protection of the law.

The Arizona government states that it is creating a method in which police officers can make a determination that the persons they stop to question and search are in fact, illegal aliens. I would sure like to know how they can arrive at such a determination. I know that the Israeli authorities have a method they use to determine whether or not a person boarding a plane may be a terrorist but these men and women are trained for a long period of time and quite extensively before they are placed in the airports. I don’t see that happening with police officers on the beat in Arizona.

To do this correctly, the state would have to issue citizenship recognition cards to its citizens after the citizen’s backgrounds have been thoroughly investigated. Further, the citizens would have to carry such ID with them at all times. I don’t see this happening at all. In fact, the concept would be shot down in court because it conflicts with the rights guaranteed to all Americans and landed immigrants according to the 14th Amendment to equally go about their business without being stopped by the police and ordered to produce ID.

I think what is going to happen if Arizona’s stop, question and search law goes fully into operation in August 2010; the courts will declare it an invalid law when innocent citizens are harassed by overzealous police officers, especially when the persons stopped don’t even look like Hispanics in any manner whatsoever.

I certainly do appreciate the concerns of the people of Arizona and the other southwestern states bordering Mexico but randomly stopping to question and search people in public places on a hunch, is going to be more than the people of Arizona and the courts are going to accept.

The Arizona government should go after the employers who hire illegal aliens. Once the problem is nipped in the bud with the employers, I believe that the problem of illegal aliens working in Arizona for the most part will be resolved.

If an employer wishes to hire a Mexican citizen, he must first be able to show that Americans have refused the job offer and then the employer can hire someone from Mexico if the person the company wants to hire is acceptable to the American immigration authorities. Before such permission is granted however, the immigration authorities must be satisfied that the pay being paid to the person from Mexico or any other country is not less than would be paid to an American worker if the American worker accepted the job. Further, the pay cannot be lower than the minimum wage.

I believe that my proposals are reasonable and would (if not solve the problem) at least reduce it to some degree.

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