The recently passed Arizona immigration law has caused an uproar across two continents, as some praise the law as a bold, forward-looking tool in the fight against illegal immigration to the United States, while others condemn it as discriminatory and opening the door for racial profiling. The oppositions' furor comes from the rights that the law assigns police officers to investigate immigration status of individuals.
The measure, due to take effect in July or August, would make it a crime under state law to be in the U.S. illegally. Under the new law, immigrants in Arizona who are unable to produce documents showing that they are allowed to be in the U.S. could be fined, arrested, and jailed. Activists say this law encroaches on the federal government's authority to regulate immigration, and that it violates people's constitutional rights by giving so much power to the police.
The Arizona law has seen high-profile jabs recently. Cities such as Los Angeles, CA are boycotting Arizona businesses to the tune of up to $7.7 million in city contracts including those for helicopter services, Taser guns, waste management, engineering and surveillance equipment. "An immigrant city, an international city, (Los Angeles) needs to have its voice heard," Councilman Ed Reyes said. "It is crucial this great city take a stand." A report from the city opposed a new requirement for police to question a person about his or her immigration status if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is in the U.S. illegally.
The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, Alessandra Soler Meetze also spoke out. "If you look or sound foreign, you are going to be subjected to never-ending requests for police to confirm your identity and to confirm your citizenship," said Meetze. The ACLU is exploring legal action against this law.
Then, in the first address to the U.S. Congress by a foreign leader this year, Mexican President Felipe Calderon told congressmen he opposed the new Arizona immigration law, calling it a tacit acceptance of racial profiling. "I strongly disagree with the recently adopted law in Arizona,? Calderon told American lawmakers. ?It is a law that ? ignores a reality that cannot be erased by decree? and ?introduces a terrible idea using racial profiling as a basis for law enforcement.?
President Barack Obama joined President Calderon in condemning the Arizona law, hoping for Congress to pass a national bill. "Comprehensive reform means accountability for everybody -- a government that is accountable for securing the border, businesses being held accountable when they exploit workers, people who break the law by breaching our borders being held accountable by paying taxes and a penalty and getting right with the law before they can earn their citizenship," Obama said.
Mexico is not the only Latin American country to oppose the law. Officials from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela issued a joint statement from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) saying that the new law would "criminalize" people detained ?on racial, ethnic, language, and migratory status? and generated ?the latent risk for violence based on racial hatred.?
Still, polls of the U.S. public has showed popular approval for the law, and indeed, several other states, including Texas, Rhode Island, Utah, and Georgia, have announced plans to pursue similar legislation.
Many have defended the Arizona immigration law, saying that the law makes it clear that there must be a "lawful stop, detention or arrest" prior to any investigation of a person's immigration status, and that the law doesn't allow a stop, detention or arrest that is merely justified by the suspicion of someone's immigration status. The law itself states that ethnicity and appearance cannot be considered as the basis of reasonable grounds for investigation of a person's immigration status.