Advocates in the state of Arizona are streaming into Phoenix today to urge Republican Gov. Jan Brewer to veto what might be the most draconian state immigration law ever passed. The Arizona legislature yesterday voted 21-to-35 along party lines to make it a criminal offense simply to be an undocumented immigrant on Arizona soil, and to require local cops to determine a person’s immigration status if there is any “reasonable suspicion” the person is undocumented. The law would essentially require police to racially profile Latinos, and threatens to terrorize immigrant communities already struggling to survive in what is arguably the country’s most anti-immigrant state.
The bill, which has been the target of a concerted campaign by immigrant and civil rights groups for months, expands the criminalization of immigrants. Arizona, the home of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is already a cradle of harsh and sometimes legally suspect immigration policy — policy that then crawls to other states. Brewer is expected to sign the bill today, and if she does, immigrant communities will face an intensified and steady siege as local police will be required to check immigration status.
Under current Arizona law, police may inquire into someone’s immigration status if they are suspected of a crime. The new bill will expand this to anyone suspected of being an immigrant and would make it illegal for municipalities to maintain sanctuary policies.
The move illuminates a clear line from the targeting of people entering the criminal justice system to the targeting all immigrants, and suggests that immigration restrictionists who have relied on rhetoric about the threat of crime from immigrants are indeed not concerned with criminality, but rather with immigration itself.
Advocates in Arizona and from around the country are determined to fight the law until it’s repealed or struck down.
“This fight is not over,” said Jennifer Allen, Executive Director of Border Action Network, which has been fighting against the law since it was introduced, and is now organizing buses to Phoenix. “People are speaking up against this bill by the thousands, and we will continue to do so until it is vetoed or stopped, whether through legal battles or voter registration to vote these legislators out of office.” The ACLU has vowed to challenge the constitutionality of the law, should Governor Brewer sign it.