Arizona’s Immigration Law Hurts Its Own Citizens

Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

I was originally going to make this post about how the United States should give Arizona back to Mexico (and throw in Texas for free), because of the the controversial immigration law SB 1070 that was recently passed there.

Sure, that would provide a sense of poetic justice, but I realized my statement would have been grossly counterproductive. Kicking Arizona out of our country would do a great injustice to not only those immigrants who have found a home here, but to the Mexican families who have been a part of Arizona since its American inception.

This is, after all, the key argument against the bill. It hurts the citizens of Arizona the most.

The bill was not crafted to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into Arizona. It isn’t a fence or extra troops placed along the border. It gives officers the power to ask anyone that looks Mexican for their papers. It’s up to their discretion. Now, how can one interpret this? As it stands, if an officer thinks your accent sounds funny, you better have your papers ready. There doesn’t have to be probable cause at all, which is a far cry from how criminal activity is dealt with in this country. Probable cause is the reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime, which is the basis for an officer to arrest or search anyone.

Is asking someone for their papers, because their skin color is the “wrong” shade, reasonable? No. There’s a term for that practice. Racial profiling. This is the act of being suspicious of a person solely on the basis of his/her race, and then acting on it. The very fact that officers can stop a person and ask them for their papers, because they think they might be an illegal immigrant- just by looking at them- is the very definition of racial profiling. And, in this country, that is grossly unacceptable.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2000 the Hispanic population stood at 35.6 million, which accounted for 12.5% of the country’s total population. It had been projected that in 2010 47.8 million Hispanics were to populate America- 15.5% of the total population. And there’s been speculation that if the bill doesn’t get over turned other states may follow. Are they really willing to put 15.5% of the population on alert like that?

Arizona itself was one of the top U.S. States by Hispanic population Gain from 2000 to 2006 with 490,124. Maricopa County, Arizona was one of the top 5 counties by Hispanic population size in 2006 with 1,129,556.

How is it logical to alienate such a growing portion of, not only Arizona’s population, but the whole country’s?

One bill supporter on Facebook argued that the bill will make Arizona citizens safer, but it won’t. Trust between police and community will be depleted. Neighbors will start to be suspicious of neighbors. She said that she wouldn’t mind carrying around papers. What if those who are legal don’t feel the need to do so? Why should a legal citizen have to worry about walking down a street and having papers on them? Would paper-carrying citizens become suspicious of that person? Is that the country we want to live in? Do we want this country to revert back to the 1940s and ’50s, when many innocent people were accused of being communist? That’s certainty the same idea this bill promotes. A Mexican who has been living in this country all his life should not have to be looked at as though he doesn’t belong.

America’s Bad Memory

How easy History is forgotten in this country. Arizona used to be a part of Mexico. It was attained by the United States after the Mexican-American War, and was completely taken over with the Gadsden Purchase in 1854. Arizona didn’t even officially become a U.S. state until February 14, 1912. Where do the supporters of the bill think those families already living in Arizona- when it was still Mexican- went? A lot of them stayed, and their descendants are still there. Yet, some ignorant officer now has the right to ask one of them for their papers?

It is extremely hard for citizens to compete with the cheap labor that illegal immigrants promise. There is also a big problem with drugs and violence, but there has to be better ways to deal with it than making our Hispanic population a collective scapegoat.

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