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Arizona's New Immigration Law

FilAm-Star, Immigration, Jun Medina Posted: May 15, 2010

By JUN MEDINA
WASHINGTON A tough new Arizona law aimed at rooting out illegal immigrants has underscored the
urgency of a comprehensive overhaul of the nations immigration system.
White House officials say the controversial Arizona law reflects an untenable void in federal immigration
policy and warn states will create a patchwork of laws will not resolve the core problems of how to
strengthen the borders and deal with the 12 million people who are in the U.S. illegally.
President Obama, who has openly expressed support for sweeping changes to reform the countrys
immigration system, branded the Arizona measure as misguided.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the president considers this is a wake-up call for the
federal government to act, referring to the law signed by Gov. Jan Brewer last April 23.
All immigrants suspect
Considered the toughest anti-immigration law in the U.S., the Arizona measure empowers local authorities
to prosecute people in the country without proper documentation..
The law, scheduled to go into effect 90 days after the close of the states legislative session, would require
immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times. Previously, officers could check
someones immigration status only if that person was suspected in another crime.
Described as the toughest anti-immigration law in the U.S., it has spawned fears that police will target
minorities on mere suspicion they are in the country illegally.
Critics say the law could foster racial profiling and scare away tourists and investors from the state. The law
has prompted protest rallies and opponents, including Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, said he will file a
lawsuit to block the law.
Supporters say the law is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and would only help the federal
government to enforce its own immigration laws.
NaFFAA cries foul
The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NAFFAA), the umbrella group of ethnic
Filipino organizations in the United States, expressed alarm that the Arizona law would aggravate racial
profiling and instill fear among ethnic minorities.
We join the voices of civil rights leaders, constitutional rights scholars and legal experts across the country
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who have expressed grave concerns about Arizonas anti-immigrant enforcement law, SB 1070, NAFFAA
said from Washington DC.
Among other things, this measure allows law enforcement to question anyone based on reasonable
suspicion that they may be undocumented. Even citizens and legal immigrants caught not carrying proof of
their U.S. legal status could be charged as felons, it added.
We share the widespread alarm within the Asian Pacific American community that this law legalizes
unchecked racial profiling by police authorities and places all minorities under constant suspicion. It instills
fear and distrust in government and undermines this countrys principles of justice, fairness and equal
treatment under the law, NAFFAA warned.
Going back 100 years
The Fil-Am federation recalled that almost a hundred years ago, the great Filipino writer Carlos Buloson
wrote about being treated like a criminal because he was Filipino.
Bulosan, wrote that in those times, Filipinos were often the target of racial violence. Law enforcement
authorities routinely stopped and searched cars with Filipino men.
I came to know afterward that in many ways it was a crime to be a Filipino in California , Bulosan wrote
in his autobiography. I came to know that the public streets were not free to my people.
NAFFAA observed that the America has come a long way as a nation in welcoming people from different
lands who wish to make America their home.
It added: Arizona s new law is a step backward and moves this great country in the wrong direction. It
brings back the America that rejected Bulosan for being Filipino.
Immigration reform now urgent
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco described the law irresponsible, even as she conceded
that it served as a reminder of the need for urgent, bipartisan action at the federal level to enact
comprehensive immigration reform.
Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said the Arizona law shows a stunning
lack of judgment and is an insult to our nations constitution.
This law only appeals to peoples fear and their understandable anxiety about the economy, and does
nothing to serve Arizona, much less our nation, Noorani said.
Obama has promised immigration reform advocates who want a path to legal status for millions of illegal
migrants that he will take up the issue, but only if he wins Republican support.
But Washington observers said the volatile politics of an election year and nearly 10 percent unemployment
rate could prevent Obama from mustering enough support this year to revamp the immigration system.
These same observers think that should the White House win passage of immigration reform, they would
likely get a boost among Hispanics in politically significant states like California, Arizona, Nevada and New
Mexico.
But if Obama fails, Republicans could be blamed for blocking the move and they could end up losing in
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those same states.
Racial profiling
Hitoshi Motomura, a Univerity of California in Los Angeles law professor said he was worried how the law
would be enforced using what he called the laws vague provision of reasonable suspicion.
This standard gives institutional cover for selective immigration enforcement through racial and ethnic
profiling, and for this reason it will lead to constitutional violations if the statute goes into effect,
Motomura wrote in a New York Times forum Tuesday.
Moreover, he said although the statute targets noncitizens who are in the U.S. unlawfully, it would have an
impact on U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants who will be caught in the same enforcement net, and thus
denying them their basic rights to live their lives free from unwarranted suspicion.
Born of fear and anger, Arizonas attempt to enact its own immigration regime and to allow selective
enforcement is impulsive extremism, Motomura said. This is yet another sign of the urgent need for
Congress and the president to address tough questions of immigration policy and to adopt the durable
solutions that can only come from federal legislation.
Washington legal observers predict a long legal battle over the law, possibly centering on a clause of the
U.S. Constitution which protects a citizen against unreasonably being stopped and searched.
Obama, in a rare presidential intervention on a state matter, said he ordered top officials to monitor the
situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation.
At a naturalization ceremony for immigrant U.S. service members at the White House, the President said the
measure threatens to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust
between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.
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