While federal lawmakers cautiously mull over the possibility of dropping a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year, legislators in Arizona have passed yet another law that criminalizes undocumented immigrants. What’s more, the Arizona House is advancing a bill that would require the Arizona Secretary of State to review President Barack Obama’s birth certificate before his name is allowed on any ballots.
The Arizona crackdown
Arizona lawmakers just passed the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighbourhood Act, which is arguably the toughest immigration law in the country. It forces local police to check the immigration status of people if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they might be undocumented. The bill is an invitation to racially profile residents.
The bill, which now goes the states’ Republican Governor Jan Brewer for final approval, has sparked an organized campaign to defeat the measure over concerns that the bill is inhumane would discriminate against Latinos.
Valeria Fernández with the Inter Press Service reports on the bill, which “includes a number of provisions that go beyond authorizing the arrest of undocumented immigrants on ‘reasonable suspicion.’ It targets day laborers by making it a crime to look for work on the street, and would fine anyone who harbors or transports an undocumented immigrant, including family members.”
Outbreaks of civil disobedience have accompanied the bill. “On Tuesday, nine students were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct after they chained themselves to the entrance doors of the capitol building in an act of civil disobedience against the proposed law.” Fernández reports. “Authorities arrested them as soon as they said they wouldn’t leave until the governor took action on the law.”
John Tomasic with the Colorado Independent also notes that “On Capitol Hill, Prominent Latino Reps. Luis Gutierrez [(D-IL)] and Raul Grijalva [(D-AZ)]denounced Arizona’s controversial immigration bill and urged [Brewer] to veto the legislation. “
Eyes on Washington
While anti-immigrant legislation passes in Arizona, optimism for federal immigration reform this year is growing dimmer. While a proposal has already been introduced in the House of Representatives, the issue of citizenship for an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants could be shelved indefinitely if a bill isn’t introduced in the Senate soon.
The Senate will need time to debate the issue, and if it isn’t introduced in the next few weeks, potential fallout from the upcoming Congressional elections may make passing reform even more difficult.
As Kai Wright notes over at RaceWire, the congressional debate is not off to a civil start. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the only Republican Senator openly working on a bipartisan immigration reform bill, was verbally attacked by anti-immigrant groups this week.
“The rabidly anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) has launched a campaign professing to out Graham as gay,” reports Wright. “In a speech to a Tea Party rally — which is making the web rounds via YouTube — the group’s leader, William Gheen, speculated that Graham’s being blackmailed into participating in immigration reform because of his ’secret.’ ‘I need to figure out why you’re trying to sell out your own countrymen and I need to make sure you being gay isn’t it,’ Gheen said.
McCain veers right
Mother Jones reports that ALIPAC is also targeting Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a lawmaker who co-sponsored a immigration reform bill in 2007 with the late Ted Kennedy. The 2007 bill didn’t pass, and since then McCain has backed away from vocally supporting reform now that he’s facing a primary challenge to his Senate seat.
“The motivation for McCain’s rightward shift is obvious,” Suzy Khimm writes. “The Arizona senator authored the Senate’s last comprehensive reform bill, which included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. His Tea Party-backed primary opponent, J.D. Hayworth, has attacked him relentlessly for doing so. Hayworth has been endorsed by [ALIPAC], a right wing anti-immigrant group that’s trying to stir up Tea Partiers to revive the conservative crusade against ‘amnesty.’”
Just this week, McCain introduced a bill in the Senate that would 3,000 National Guard troops to patrol the border, “an intervention that critics say would be both costly and ineffective,” according to Khimm. McCain also come out in support of Arizona’s news anti-immigration law.
But despite vicious attacks from the right, there is still hope. Immigration reform supporters are planning rallies in dozens of states on May 1 to keep pressure on the Senate to propose a bill. To organizers working on the ground to pass reform, Arizona exemplifies why the broken immigration system needs to be fixed on a national level, and now.