immigration protest, immigration rally
Ross D. Franklin/AP
Thousands of protesters rally at the Arizona Capitol on Sunday, April, 25, 2010. Activists
called on President Barack Obama to fight a tough new Arizona law targeting illegal
immigrants, promising Sunday to march in the streets and invite arrest by refusing to
comply if the measure goes into effect.

Examining the Issues Behind Arizona’s Immigration Law

April 27, 2010 12:00 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Arizona’s new immigration law raises concerns about racial profiling, and emphasizes issues keeping Mexican immigrants in a cycle of poverty and discrimination.

New Law Has Many Critics

Arizona’s immigration bill is “considered to be among the toughest legislation in the nation,” and was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer on April 23, CNN reported. The law mandates that immigrants “carry their alien registration documents at all times” and that police officers “question people” if there is “reason to suspect they’re in the United States illegally.”

Among the law’s many critics is the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, which suggests the law “will foster racial profiling” and that law enforcement officers lack sufficient “training to look past race while investigating a person’s legal status.”

At a press conference in Phoenix, before Brewer signed the bill, President Obama spoke out against it. According to The New York Times, the President said Arizona’s law “threatened ‘to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities.” Obama also “called for a federal overhaul of immigration laws,” The Times reported.

Immigration reform, last addressed in a 2007 debate that “exposed divisions within each party,” is not something that either Republicans or Democrats wanted to address “just six months before congressional elections,” Liz Sidoti writes for the Associated Press. Nonetheless, Brewer’s signing of the bill “all but forced” Obama and the Democrats in control of Congress to broach the issue.

Opinion & Analysis: Discrimination and poverty in Mexico

In a column for The Daily Beast, native Arizonan Meghan McCain claims not to support the new bill, and suggests that  “it gives the state police a license to discriminate.” But she writes that there are various reasons why the law emerged: the federal government’s inability to deal with insecure borders, drug smuggling and the recent murder of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz “by someone who was believed to be an illegal immigrant.”

McCain blames “partisan politics” for thwarting efforts to resolve the issue of illegal immigration, and says it is impossible for those not living in border states to “truly appreciate the complexities of the problem.” For McCain, the “saddest part” of the law is how it has damaged public opinion of Arizona and heightened Hispanic voters’ distrust of the Republican Party.

What McCain fails to address is the negative impact of the law on the Hispanic community of Arizona, as well as the frustrating conditions that keep Mexico’s poorest citizens down.

Writing for Politics Daily, Luisita Lopez Torregrosa delves into deeper concerns surrounding Arizona’s new law, particularly the challenges faced by Mexico’s poorest. “Those who come here illegally are, by and large, unschooled, unskilled except in manual labor, and in many instances unable to speak 'good' Spanish, never mind English,” Torregrosa writes.

Illegal immigrants “often come from the lower levels of their society,” and simply transition into a similar role once arriving in the U.S., completing the “vicious cycle.” While sympathetic, Torregrossa agrees that “we've got to acknowledge that the flood of illegal immigrants takes a toll on our border states.”

Related Topic: Migrant deaths

There is another issue being overlooked in Arizona, author and journalist Margaret Regan claims in an editorial for The Washington Post. The increasing number of migrant deaths, up to 2,000 in the past decade alone, is not being addressed appropriately, Regan suggests.

Immigrants from Central America and Mexico “used to take safer routes” through larger cities in California and New Mexico, but a 1990s government crackdown led to a shift. Since then, Arizona has seen an influx of migrants, turning the southern part of the state “into a war zone” as the government struggles to cope.

Regan worries that the new law “will clog the courts and the jails, and tangle the state in turf disputes with the federal government.” That migrants will likely be pushed back across the border into towns “already struggling to cope” with drugs and poverty is equally worrisome.

Reference: U.S. immigration

The findingDulcinea U.S. Immigration Web Guide offers more information about the issue, from the history of U.S. immigration to current services, U.S. immigration law, and American population statistics and projections. The guide is also available in Spanish.

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines