Arizona’s new get-tough anti-immigration laws

When local jurisdictions take on immigration, they claim to do so because the federal government has failed to take action. These moves, along with calls from Latino voters and immigration advocates, increase the stakes on the Obama administration for a long-requested and much-needed overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws.

Yesterday Arizona became the latest state to move ahead with tough anti-illegal-immigrant legislation. It is widely considered to be the most stringent in the states. The legislation would allow Arizona’s police to have broad powers to check the legal status of people they reasonably suspect are illegal immigrants.

As we in Virginia have observed, “reasonably suspicious” can be interpreted differently. It can include any person DWL (driving while Latino) or the result of an arrest for a distinct offense.  It also opens the possibility that Arizona residents will suffer violations of their civil rights.

Under the new law, Arizona police would be authorized to arrest immigrants who are unable to show documents authorizing their presence in the country.  It would also leave drivers open to sanctions in some cases for knowingly transporting an illegal immigrant, even a relative. Most troubling, the legislation expressly forbids cities from adopting “sanctuary” policies that restrict the police and public workers from immigration enforcement (though it is a matter of debate if any cities have such policies).

It’s a scary time to be an immigrant in the U.S.  If state and local laws like the ones passed in Arizona aren’t reason enough for Congress to get moving on immigration reform, I don’t know what is.


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