Defend Immigrant Rights
Arizona Senate Bill 1070
Senate Bill 1070 (SB 1070) was passed by the Arizona Senate April 19, following an earlier vote by the Arizona House of Representatives. SB1070 represents the final bill that reconciles earlier versions passed by the Arizona House and Senate. It is now awaiting signature by Governor Jan Brewer, who has until end of day April 24 to sign it, veto it, or do nothing, in which case it would become law. The Arizona law is being passed in the context of federal programs, such as "Secure Communities," which allow local and state law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law. They also serve to put Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) in charge of local law enforcement, with local and state agencies coming under their command in raids and other enforcement activities. The federal programs, like "Secure Communities" and "287g," together with the ICE raids, have already unleashed the terrorizing and collective punishment of communities — themselves crimes by the government. They have also unleashed widespread racist government profiling, arrests and searches without probable cause, and mass deportations across the country. Indeed, while SB 1070 was being debated, a massive ICE raid using 800 agents terrorized four communities in Arizona, including Phoenix and Tucson.
The federal government's "End Game" plan and "Secure Communities," focused on criminalizing and deporting immigrants, provided the blueprint for the Arizona law. The federal government is also critical for SB 1070 to function. Police stopping individuals will attempt to verify their status through the federal government, using systems like e-verify, based on a federal government database. The database itself is notoriously wrong, with names that are similar, mispelled, changed due to marriage, etc. often returns an "illegal" status to individuals who are documented or citizens. And it will be the federal government that acts to brand individuals as criminals for the Arizona police, by saying they do not have documents.
Given that local police in various cities have refused to cooperate with the federal programs, as they oppose targeting workers and families who have committed no crime, Arizona SB 1070 is written to force police to do so. The law specifically allows any Arizona resident to sue to force the police, or concievably landlords, or school officials, to have people they "reasonably suspect" to be undocumented, arrested. It also forbids actions such as sanctuary cities. Out of state drivers are targeted as well. Officials in Phoenix, for example, say they will require out-of-state drivers to have a passport or visa or be subject to arrest. Already truck drivers are planning to boycott the area. All of these features of the bill serve to foment conflict among the people. They could also set local police against government officials opposed to the law, state police against local police, and so forth. It is the federal government that has unleashed this dangerous situation, frought with conflict and anarchy, by encouraging and providing legal backing for laws like SB 1070. It has provided the example of turning immigration into a criminal issue, when it is a matter of rights — rights of immigrants, of workers, of all.
President Barack Obama can immiediately intervene to stop all raids and stop programs like "Secure Communities" and e-verify, which are all actions by the executive. Doing so would effectively nullify Arizona SB 1070. People in Arizona and across the country are demanding that he do so immediately.
SB1070 addresses a range of issues relating to immigration. It would:
• Prohibit state, city or county officials from limiting or restricting "the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law." This means that local ordinances permitting sanctuary cities or towns are outlawed. The bill also allows any person to “bring an action in Superior Court to challenge any official or agency” that “adopts or implements a policy that limits or restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws. This portion of the law is specifically directed at law enforcement agencies, as well as churches or others attempting to provide sanctuary. It anticipates that some police forces may attempt to simply not enforce the law. To counter this, anyone can bring suit demanding that police fully enforce SB1070.
• Require law enforcement to make a reasonable attempt "when practicable" to determine the immigration status of a person “where reasonable suspicion exists that the person” is “unlawfully present in the U.S.” The person does not have to be committing or even be suspicious of committing a crime. The term “reasonable suspicion” also requires even less than the usual “probable cause” to stop a person. Officers do not have to act "if the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation." The immigration status is to be verified by the federal government. Individuals determined to be in the country without documentation are turned over to the federal government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Local and state officials can also choose to take an individual to any federal facility in the state, including those outside of their jurisdiction.
• Make it a state crime to be an undocumented immigrant, by creating a state charge of "willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document." The misdemeanor charge carries a $500 fine. A second offense automatically becomes a felony charge. For state residents, an Arizona driver’s license is considered proof of citizenship. A person without a license must carry their birth certificate or other government issued identification or immigration document, like a green card, to prove status. For people from out of state, a passport or visa is required. As Phoenix Vice Mayor Michael Nowakowski put it, police should request citizenship proof from everyone they stop in order to avoid charges of racial profiling. He added, “Anyone who drives in the city of Phoenix and gets pulled over better have a passport or a visa.”
• Make a state crime of “trespassing” if a “person is present on any public or private land” in Arizona and is without documentation proving citizenship or residency. It is also a misdemeanor charge with a $500 fine that becomes a felony on a second offense.
• Make it a crime for undocumented immigrants to work or solicit work in Arizona.
• Make it a crime to pick up a day laborer for work if the vehicle impedes traffic while doing so. Make it a crime to be picked up as a day laborer if the vehicle they get into is impeding traffic.
• Make it a crime to “conceal, harbor or shield an undocumented immigrant if the person knows or recklessly disregards the immigrant's status.” This means anyone who lives with an undocumented person, including spouses or children or other family members, is guilty of a crime. There is a legal defense for someone providing emergency, public-safety or public health services to undocumented immigrants. However, it is the state that determines if such services are being provided. Many churches, social service and health organizations are concerned they and the people they serve will be targeted.
• Allow law-enforcement officials to arrest a person without a warrant if they have “probable cause to believe the person has committed a public offense that makes him or her removable from the U.S.” The federal government requires deportation for any conviction for an “aggravated felony,” even one from years ago. It has also included minor non-violent offenses like shoplifting, DUI, and possession of any quantity of any illegal drugs, under the category of “aggravated felony.” Many documented immigrants living 10 years and more in the U.S., are already being deported, with more than half of all deportations made from people detained in Arizona.
• Allow law enforcement to stop a driver if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the driver is in violation of human-smuggling and any civil traffic law. “Smuggling of human beings” is defined as “the transportation, procurement of transportation or use of property or real property by a person or an entity that knows or has reason to know that the person or persons transported or to be transported are not U.S. citizens, permanent residents or persons otherwise lawfully in this state or have attempted to enter, entered or remained in the U.S. in violation of law.” This means a citizen whose spouse or children are undocumented is guilty of “smuggling,” as is someone driving fellow workers to work. A carload of people that look like immigrants can be stopped for no reason, or for traffic tickets or similar violations. If the driver or others in the car cannot prove citizenship or residency, all can be jailed and the car impounded.
• Require employers to keep E-Verify records of employees' eligibility. E-verify is notoriously wrong concerning verification, with many people wrongly identified as without documentation. Employers who knowingly employ undocumented workers do not face criminal charges but can lose their licenses.
The Embassy of Mexico is deeply concerned by the potentially dire effects that the final enactment of legislative initiatives, such as SB 1070 currently under discussion in Arizona, may have for the civil rights of Mexican nationals. As it has been raised by national Latino and immigrant rights organizations, initiatives that exclusively criminalize immigration create opportunities for undue enforcement of the law through racial profiling.
Mexico also observes with concern the likelihood of negative effects that this measure, should it be approved, may have for the future development of tourism, commercial, friendship and cultural ties that have characterized the relationship between Mexico and Arizona for generations, particularly with the State of Sonora.
Through its vast consular network, the Government of Mexico will continue to provide any and all consular assistance required by our nationals in this country in order to guarantee the protection and full exercise of their fundamental rights regardless of their immigration status.
The nation's battle over immigration reform this week landed squarely on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's office steps. And with four days left to decide what she will do about one of the state's most divisive issues in the midst of an election year, the pressure is mounting.
The Arizona Senate on Monday, April 19 approved Senate Bill 1070, a wide-ranging immigration measure that, among other things, makes it a state crime to be in the country [without documentation] and requires local law enforcement to determine an individual's legal status if there is reasonable suspicion that he or she is in the U.S. [without authorization]. Brewer has until the end of the day Saturday April 24 to sign it, veto it or do nothing and allow it to become law.
While everyone awaits her decision, the stakes continue to rise.
On Tuesday, police arrested nine college students after they chained themselves to the old Capitol-building doors in protest. More than 100 bill opponents spent the day praying and rallying. Some plan to stay round-the-clock until Brewer makes a decision.
As of Monday, the Governor's Office had received 11,931, e-mails and faxes against the bill and 1,356 calls in favor of SB 1070. [Brewer reported April 22 more than 16,000 responses and that about 85 percent of people contacting her oppose the bill].
Brewer's staff says she is well-equipped to deal with the intense pressure and national attention, given that she already has made a multitude of unpopular decisions, including approving billions of dollars in cuts to service programs to balance the state's budget and supporting a temporary 1-cent-per-dollar sales-tax increase that goes to voters in May.
Somos Republicans, a grass-roots group working to register more Latino Republicans, sent an e-mail to Brewer on Monday, telling her that if she supports the bill, they will request that she "leave the Republican Party."
Her would-be gubernatorial challengers have become increasingly vocal about the bill. Presumptive Democratic nominee Terry Goddard says he is against it, while GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Owen "Buz" Mills, state Treasurer Dean Martin and former Board of Regents President John Munger said they favor it.
When Brewer spoke Saturday night at the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's Black and White ball, chamber President Armando Contreras asked her to veto SB 1070 "in the name of fairness, humanitarianism, and for the sake of our state's future economic prosperity and its diverse and growing community." The governor told the audience of about 1,100 people that she would do what is right for the state.
Rallies of protest
The nine students arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct Tuesday were part of a small group of about a dozen mostly college-age protesters holding signs, chanting loudly and banging drums in front of the Capitol while police watched.
"It was a symbolic gesture to block out the hatred and bigotry that has emanated from the passage of this bill to keep it from entering the executive branch," said attorney Antonio Bustamente, who represented one of the students.
A few yards away, a much larger group had gathered. They took boxes containing 83,000 signatures to the Governor's Office. The documents asked Brewer to veto the bill.
Pastor Warren Stewart of the First Institutional Baptist Church called upon the group to pray that God "will perform a miracle" and move Brewer to veto the bill. Jim Wallis, CEO of the Washington-based Christian social-justice group Sojourners, said this immigration fight is not just about Arizona. "This is about the entire country," he said. "We want to be a nation of laws, but enforcement without reform is cruel. We will not comply."
There were no visible groups supporting the bill at the Capitol on Tuesday. More opposition rallies are planned.
Levi Bolton, legislative lobbyist for the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, which represents more than 2,500 Phoenix police officers, said his group hand-delivered a letter encouraging Brewer to sign the bill.
Phoenix Vice Mayor Michael Nowakowski sent a letter to City Manager David Cavazos, suggesting that if the bill becomes law, police should request citizenship proof from everyone they stop in order to avoid charges of racial profiling.
The bill states that an Arizona driver's license is sufficient to prove citizenship. Nowakowski argued that licenses from other states, however, may not be sufficient because some states do not require proof of citizenship to get a license, as Arizona does. "That means that anyone who drives in the city of Phoenix and gets pulled over better have a passport or a visa," he said.
Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox spoke in front of the Capitol on Tuesday. She said the bill "is literally designed to terrorize undocumented immigrants."
"It will be proved unconstitutional," Wilcox said. "Why have Arizona pay the cost of having to go through the courts?"
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Russell Pearce, R- Mesa, told the Senate: "Illegal is not a race, it's a crime." He said he expects the state to be sued over the law, and he expects the law to prevail. Pearce said he would not be surprised if local politicians and police chiefs try to avoid enforcing the measure when it becomes law. That is why it includes the clause that allows any Arizonan to file a lawsuit if they do not believe the law is being followed, he said.
Sen. Richard Miranda, D-Tolleson, said by passing this law, Arizona is sacrificing its civil rights and encouraging racial profiling. "It's popular that I hear that we're going to take handcuffs off police," Miranda said. "What we're doing with this bill is putting the handcuffs on the community."
Sen. Ken Cheuvront, D-Phoenix, said the proposed legislation has resulted in Arizona being called the "Alabama of the 21st Century" and a police state. He said national groups are urging boycotts.
Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor echoed that sentiment. "Is this really going to be a state that people are going to want to come to, whether to visit on a temporary basis or as a business wanting to relocate here?" Landrum Taylor asked. "Our state will be going completely backward."
Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson, took it even further. “This piece of legislation are tactics that were used in Nazi Germany," Aboud said of the requirement that individuals be able to show paperwork.
Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-Apache Junction, said this legislation will cost financially struggling cities millions in lawsuits and have a "chilling effect" on public safety by making people afraid to report crime and forcing officers to focus on immigration instead of crimes like human smuggling or drug trafficking.
Several in support of the measure said they are simply doing what they have to do in the face of the federal government doing nothing. "The U.S. Constitution says the federal government shall protect states from foreign invasion," Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, said. "The federal government has not done that. People are being attacked … Arizona needs to act."
Opponents include Mexico's embassy, American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, Valley Interfaith Project and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Several groups, including National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, planned news conferences in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to ask President Obama to intervene. [On April 22, President Obama, speaking at a naturalization ceremony for veterans, President Barack said the government must enact immigration reform at the national level, or leave the door open to "irresponsibility by others." He reportedly said the Arizona bill was “misguided” and has instructed his administration to examine SB1070 to see if it violates people's civil rights.]
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona is considering litigation if the bill becomes law. Executive director Alessandra Soler Meetze said there are two options. One would be to wait until somebody is "injured" by the enforcement of the law. The other would be to challenge the legality of the law and try to get a court to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent the law from going into effect. "Rather than going after human smugglers, drug smugglers, this gives police authority to stop and question people who fail to carry their paperwork," she said. "This will give police officers the green light to engage in profiling and harass people who look and sound foreign."
It is open season on the Latino community in Arizona. In Phoenix, Tucson, and across the state, people in Latino neighborhoods are afraid to leave their houses, afraid to be apart from their children for even a minute, and afraid to walk the streets because they feel their arrest on suspicion of being an undocumented immigrant could happen at any moment. It is a horrifying glimpse at what our future holds across the country if we continue down the path the Obama administration is leading us on immigration.
This week, we saw how destructive things are getting. The combination of a harsh piece of anti-immigrant legislation advancing in the Arizona legislature and a massive, well-publicized federal enforcement action against a broad “human smuggling” network has sent the unmistakable message to Arizona's one million immigrants and two million Hispanics: there is a target on your backs and authorities are coming after you.
President Obama, who promised immigration reform but has failed to make it a priority or use his office to make good on his campaign promises, is now able to see what lies ahead. The Obama administration has escalated mass deportation as our singular approach to immigrants and this has combined in Arizona with anti-immigrant hysteria that is festering to the point that state and local elected opportunists are taking matters into their own hands — with complete federal acquiescence.
We are now deporting people at a rate of 1,000 per day — with nearly half of the arrests in the state of Arizona — and now the state legislature is on the verge of escalating that pace dramatically. A law [SB 1070] that passed the legislature and is headed to the Governor's desk for signature], authorizes state and local police to round up anyone "suspected" of being an undocumented immigrant. As if that were not bad enough, the law throws in a bounty of $500 in fines and a possible misdemeanor conviction on criminal trespassing if the particular lawman involved happens to guess correctly and the person they arrest cannot prove they are here legally.
As we know from experience in Arizona and elsewhere, giving police such a broad mandate to arrest and book people "suspected" of looking a certain way is not just an invitation to racial profiling, it is like waving a green flag and saying "gentlemen start your engines." It is an insult to American justice and one of the harshest assaults on basic civil rights in recent American history.
Then Thursday, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency compounded the panic with one of the biggest Arizona enforcement actions in history, taking down an alleged state-wide smuggling ring. Let's be clear, I support targeted enforcement against smuggling rings exploiting our broken immigration system and preying on vulnerable immigrants, but the timing of this show of force could not have been more destructive.
Television screens across the state flashed images of 800 federal officers unleashed in Phoenix and Tucson, taking people to jail and multiplying the sense of siege in immigrant and Latino communities. After years of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Latino neighborhood sweeps, harsher and harsher state laws that target Latinos and immigrants, and escalating federal deportation, I am afraid we have turned a very dangerous corner in the war on immigrants.
And we have heard nothing from the President.
A man who told the Latino electorate that he saw undocumented immigrants as future citizens, not criminals or deportees, has not lifted a finger. It is not as if his administration does not have a clear immigration policy; they do. It is called deportation only. And they are removing immigrants, mostly Latino, at a faster pace than the Bush administration ever did. All of the rhetoric that a new enforcement strategy targeting serious violent criminals was being adopted has been revealed as empty rhetoric.
When the Washington Post published internal memos from Homeland Security headquarters to their field agents instructing them that their job performance would be judged by filling deportation quotas for simple visa and immigration violations, all of the President's lofty promises about a new approach went out the window. Either the President, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, and ICE Assistant Secretary Morton have been misleading the American people and Congress about their enforcement priorities or they have no control over what their agencies are doing.
At a minimum, the President has failed to put his heart into reforming immigration. He has dropped the ball in the first year of his presidency and as we head into election season in his second year, we are seeing more of the same. Unless the President acts forcefully in the coming weeks to drive the immigration reform issue forward, we are going to see a lot more of the devastation we are seeing in Arizona this week.
I know the President knows what we need to do. We need comprehensive immigration reform to diffuse the crisis we are facing. We need the federal government to assert their supremacy over the immigration issue and make it clear to state legislatures, cowboy cops, and the American people that the federal government is in charge and effectively enforcing and regulating immigration. We need legal immigration as an alternative to illegal immigration and a way of getting the millions of unauthorized immigrants already here to get legal and get in compliance with our laws.
The President knows what we must do, but he alone must summon the political will in Washington to do it. The short-run calculations of politics are deeply rooted and hard to overcome, but as we saw in the health care debate, he can do it if he wants to. He needs to stop appeasing those who embrace the persistent fantasy of mass deportation or the delusion that by making America so hostile and uninviting, tens of millions of immigrants will deport themselves. Obama the President needs to stand up for what Obama the candidate and what Obama the Senator and what Obama the Chicago community organizer stood for and lead the Congress towards reform.
But I am already afraid that for the people of Arizona, he has waited too long. Even if an immigration reform bill passed tomorrow, Latino families in Arizona still face the prospect of going out into a hostile world next week. I know thousands of Latino families will hesitate before dropping their kids off at school or will have that terrifying twinge of fear before venturing out to buy groceries or go to work. If we allow police-state tactics in Arizona to continue, the level of basic community security will erode and civil unrest could escalate. The President must act now to diffuse the Arizona panic and take control of a deteriorating situation that could become a national crisis.