The State Of Arizona has a problem.
With an illegal immigrant population estimated at 283,000- according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services- Arizona has the 6th largest percentage of illegal immigrants in the United States. The Pew Hispanic Center estimate is more than likely closer to the truth, with an estimate of 500,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona as of 2005.
Annually, Arizona taxpayers pay out 1.3 billion to cover the education, health care, and incarceration costs of illegal immigrants, and that does not include the cost of burying those unfortunate souls that die attempting to cross the border, or the exorbitant cost of investigating and determining their identities.
With budgets strained, and political careers on the line, Governor Jan Brewer signed into law Arizona’s SB1070 Immigration Enforcement Law. The law, sponsored by Senator Russell Pearce, brings to the forefront two of the most controversial, divisive issues to threaten the cohesiveness of U.S. society:
How should the United States of America handle illegal immigration?
How should the United States of America acknowledge, and begin to repair law enforcement’s reputation as racist?
As much as some would like to think so, this law, at it’s core, is not racist. It is the officers entrusted to carry out this law that citizens, and non-citizens alike, fear will take power into their own hands and use this opportunity to rid Arizona of illegal immigrants through illegal means.
Let’s pull back the covers, shall we?
During times of crisis and racial upheaval, from Hurricane Katrina, to Jim Crow, some members of law enforcement have been proven racist. Laws that disproportionately target U.S. minorities do nothing to quiet the pervasive undercurrents of mistrust towards law enforcement that run rampant in a society where “law enforcement” is code word for “white; and illegal immigrant is code word for “Hispanic/Latino”.
However, police are not the only component in this combustible situation. What about the illegal aliens themselves? What is their responsibility? What is the responsibility of the Hispanic/Latino community?
I firmly believe that if someone has the courage to make it to this country, they should be allowed to become citizens after the naturalization process. They should be afforded the full protection of the United States of America throughout this process, and at its conclusion, have the identical rights and responsibilities as U.S. born citizens.
However, this situation needs to be addressed honestly: There is crime sneaking over the border; there are illegal immigrants abusing our tax system. The Hispanic/Latino community needs to speak out as passionately on these issues as this immigration law.
SB1070, both brave and foolish in it’s audacity, fails to ensure that illegal immigrants’ basic human rights will not be violated, nor will citizens with brown skin who speak Spanish be forced to provide proof of their U.S. Citizenship at a basic traffic stop.
I echo President Obama’s fears that crime resolution will decrease, as illegals will be too afraid to risk deportation to report to the police. While there is specific language that allows for citizens to sue officials whom they feel are not carrying out this law, there needs to be equally strong language that allows for citizens who feel that their rights were violated to have the right to sue law enforcement as well.
Skewed to the point of being intimidation, SB1070 is in place not so much to eradicate a problem, but to make some ethnic groups fear the wrath of the United States… and we see what intimidation and fear tactics have done for our foreign relations. We should know better than to emulate the same ideology based laws domestically.
Bottom line: This law can not, and will not, stand in it’s present form. But it’s passing has done this nation a great service. It has forced us once again to re-examine our core values. It is also forcing us to re-define what exactly ‘Home of the Free’ means, and how much that freedom costs taxpayers.
We, as a nation, must see through the haze of emotion that clouds the Arizona issue and allow it to be a starting point for honest dialogue. If we can bring law enforcement, the Hispanic community, and anyone who understands that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere to the table, we may end up being a country who lives up to its potential and its promise.