Arizona is known for its anti-immigration climate, with vigilante sheriffs seemingly ruling the day. Now, that anti-immigration sentiment may be about to be implemented by the state’s political system, as the Legislature votes on a bill that would significantly toughen laws against undocumented immigrants.
The bill, which is expected to pass the Legislature, makes anyone who is in the state without documentation papers a de facto criminal. Police must check the residency of anyone they believe to be in the country illegally, and anyone knowingly transporting an undocumented immigrant is subject to arrest.
Even police departments are calling the measures burdensome and impractical. —JCL
The state legislature of Arizona is poised to pass a bill that makes the presence of an undocumented immigrant anywhere in the state illegal. Many experts believe this is an unconstitutional measure aimed at appeasing angry conservative voters in the 2010 elections.
Arizona is ground zero for the debate about immigration policy in America, and you can feel it. Nowhere is the atmosphere more charged and polarized between those pushing for harsher laws and reformers. Nowhere is there a more heightened sense of the demographic changes taking place in the country, and more sharp views about it either way.
The dominant political apparatus in Arizona is currently conservative, but many in the Tea Party movement are attacking the incumbents from the right for not being ‘conservative enough’ on many issues, first and foremost immigration. This is ironic, because the original Tea Parties were grassroots libertarian events, and the official Libertarian Party platform clearly states their stance on an open border policy. Ever since the traditional conservatives rolled their astroturf over this fledgling movement and took it over, the rhetoric has become harsher and harsher against immigration, possibly explaining why there are so few Latinos in attendance. Regardless, the ground campaign of the Tea Parties has re-energized anti-immigration forces to push politicians from the right.
The Arizona senate recently passed bill 1070, sponsored by Sen. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa). The bill has a few provisions.
• It outlaws the hiring of day laborers off the street
• Prohibits anyone from knowingly transporting an undocumented immigrant
• Forces police to check the residency status of people they suspect are in the country illegally
AP / Victor Calzada
A U.S. Border Patrol agent checks an irrigation ditch near Fabens, Texas, about 200 miles from the Arizona border, in 2008.