The signing last week by Arizona’s Republican Governor, Jan Brewer of SB 1070 should be a signal for action by everybody who cares about human and workers’ rights.
The Arizona law criminalizes not only undocumented immigrants but anybody who helps them or who fails to carry paperwork proving legal status at all times. Further, it will encourage frivolous lawsuits against state and local government agencies and officials who somebody claims are not cracking down on undocumented immigrants. Clearly, this law will be enforced only against people who appear to be Latino or foreign, leading to a great increase in racial and ethnic profiling.
The Arizona law is only the latest in a series of state and local measures aimed at persecuting immigrants by subjecting them to harassment and repression and denying them basic human services. Some of these laws have been withdrawn when it was found how much their enforcement would cost the taxpayers, or have been found to be unconstitutional. But political demagogues are undaunted, as is their motive is to get votes and campaign contributions instead of solve problems.
With straight faces, Governor Brewer and other Arizona politicians have assured us that they will not let this new law lead to profiling. The fact is that such profiling is already an everyday reality in minority communities in Arizona and across the country. This law will encourage such profiling by giving it full legal sanction. There are now efforts in several states to pass similar laws.
Demonstrations were quickly organized all over the country, and the Arizona law will surely give an additional spur to immigrants’ rights marches being organized for May 1. President Obama denounced the law, as did the governments of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. There is talk in both the United States and Mexico about trade sanctions against Arizona. There will be legal challenges. All of these things are promising.
However, until Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform legislation which allows for the legalization of the estimated 10.7 million undocumented immigrants in the country and a rational plan for managing the inevitable future labor migration (with full legal protections for both immigrant and US born workers), the issue of undocumented immigration will continue to be used in this unconscionable way. Studies show that the legalization of the undocumented would be an economic boon to the nation, adding up to $1.5 trillion to the GDP over 10 years.
The time has come to act.