Arizona's Harsh Anti-Immigration Law Sparks Anger

Does it go too far?

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Arizona is not known for stretching a welcome mat across its long desert border with Mexico. The state's laws are among the country's harshest and most restrictive toward illegal immigrants. Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County was dubbed "America's toughest sheriff" for his sweeping arrests and sometimes rough treatment of suspected illegal immigrants. But Arizona's strict anti-immigration stance is about to get even stricter. The state senate has passed a new law that, if passed, will bring restrictions against suspected illegal immigrants, and relevant police powers, to unprecedented levels. Many national political pundits are stidently opposed or, in the case of many conservatives, conspicuously silent.

  • What the Bill Does  The New York Times' Randal Archibold reports, "The bill makes it a state crime for immigrants not to carry authorization papers, requires the police 'when practicable' to check the immigration status of people they reasonably suspect are in the country illegally and allows people to sue cities and counties if the law is not being enforced." Gawker's Alex Pareene summarizes, "Now any cop in Arizona can ask anyone to prove their immigration status, and every cop in Arizona is compelled, under threat of lawsuit, to enforce federal immigration laws." Police do not require warrants or the proof of probable cause to detain suspected illegal immigrants.
  • The Guy Behind It  Citing the New York Times report, Gawker's Jeff Neumann calls the bill's author, state senator Russell Pearce, "a friend of neo-nazis." Neumann cites photographs of Pearce appearing with a man who was also the featured speaker at a neo-nazi gathering, Pearce's stated admiration of a 1950s program called "Operation Wetback," and an email he sent to supporters that included (mistakenly, he said) an attachment from a white supremacist group.
  • Reminiscent of 'Fascist Europe'  The Los Angeles Times editorial board calls it "racial profiling," lamenting, "Even legal immigrants, in a move that harks back to fascist Europe, would be required to carry their papers at all times or risk arrest."
  • 'Off the Deep End'  The New York Times is appalled. "The Arizona Legislature has just stepped off the deep end of the immigration debate, passing a harsh and mean-spirited bill that would do little to stop illegal immigration. What it would do is lead to more racial profiling, hobble local law enforcement, and open government agencies to frivolous, politically driven lawsuits."
  • Congressman: Mass Deportations  Writing in the Huffington Post, Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez warns, "The Obama administration has escalated mass deportation as our singular approach to immigrants ... We are now deporting people at a rate of 1,000 per day -- with nearly half of the arrests in the state of Arizona -- and now the state legislature is on the verge of escalating that pace dramatically."
  • Legislation Unlike Anything Since Jim Crow   Arizona-based legal defender Isabel Garcia tells CNN that the bill "legalizes racial profiling." She says,"I think this bill represents the most dangerous precedent in this country, violating all of our due process rights. ... We have not seen this kind of legislation since the Jim Crow laws. And targeting our communities, it is the single most largest attack on our communities."
  • AZ Senators: We Don't All Support  The Washington Independent's Julizza Trevino reports, "Several senators spoke out against the bill, arguing that Arizona could become the Alabama of the new century, that the bill may be unconstitutional and that it could turn family members of illegal immigrants into criminals. One senator called the bill 'un-American,' and another expressed concern over how Arizona might be viewed if the legislation were passed and whether tourism would suffer as a result."
  • Obama Could Have Averted This  The American Prospect's Adam Serwer sighs, "this episode illustrates the folly of having tapped Janet Napolitanoto serve as Secretary of Homeland Security, given her past role as a check against the worst anti-immigrant impulses of Arizona politicians when she was the state's governor."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.