My friend Tom emailed me this morning asking, “What’s your opinion of the new Arizona law?”
Good question, Tom. here’s my response:
Republican Governor (wow, what a surprise) Jan Brewer yesterday signed into law a bill that requires police to question people about their immigration status — including asking for identification — if they suspect someone is in the country illegally. It has sparked fears among Hispanics — including legal immigrants and U.S. citizens — that they will be hassled by police because of their race.
Earlier Friday, President Barack Obama called the Arizona bill “misguided” and instructed the Justice Department to examine it to see if it’s legal.
Obama also said the “federal government must enact immigration reform at the national level — or leave the door open to irresponsibility by others — that includes, for example, the efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness… as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”
The new law makes it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. Immigrants unable to produce documents showing they are allowed to be in the U.S. could be arrested, jailed for up to six months and fined $2,500.
It also allows lawsuits against government agencies that hinder enforcement of immigration laws and toughens restrictions on hiring illegal immigrants for day labor and knowingly transporting them.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund said it plans a legal challenge to the law, which it said “launches Arizona into a spiral of pervasive fear, community distrust, increased crime and costly litigation, with nationwide repercussions.”
Many of the demonstrators at the Capitol complex booed when Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox announced that “the governor did not listen to our prayers.”
“It’s going to change our lives,” said Emilio Almodovar, a 13-year-old American citizen from Phoenix. “We can’t walk to school any more. We can’t be in the streets anymore without the pigs thinking we’re illegal immigrants.”
Mexico warned the proposal could affect cross-border relations, with Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa saying her country would have to “consider whether the cooperation agreements that have been developed with Arizona are viable and useful.”
On Thursday, Mexico’s Senate unanimously passed a resolution urging Arizona’s governor to veto the law.