The new Arizona bill: clear racial profiling

DKS Editors

What does an immigrant look like? Is he or she white, black, brown or yellow? Is he or she tall or short? Is he or she slender or fat?

Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed a law Friday that allows police to detain anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant on American soil. Bill SB1070 requires any law enforcement officers, “when practicable,” to detain people who they have a “reasonable suspicion” to believe are unlawfully present in the country.

While the bill opens up the question of what is a reasonable suspicion, Arizona’s government has failed to provide an answer. Is it a person’s skin color, hair or accent? Or is it a person’s clothing, food preference or schooling?

President Barack Obama openly criticized the law Friday, saying that the bill threatens “to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans.”

The law will affect approximately half a million immigrants residing in Arizona, most of them Mexicans. Gov. Brewer said racial profiling would not be tolerated; however, immigrant advocate groups believe it is likely the targets of this law will be those that physically do not look like the majority of Americans. Is it reasonable to believe that a British student at the University of Arizona will raise any suspicions of illegally living in the country?

Supporters and critics alike consider Bill SB1070 to be the country’s most strenuous law against illegal immigration.

Under the new law, which is expected to be in effect in August, a person’s failure to carry immigration documents at all times will be considered a misdemeanor. Thus, an immigrant is expected to carry a form of identification such as a valid passport and a visa while he or she goes out for a run or to dinner or to walk the dog.

Gov. Brewer defended the law, adding that it is a tool for the state “to solve a crisis we did not create and the federal government has refused to fix.”

Amnesty International has called for the derogation of the law. Pro-immigrant groups across the country have called for boycott. Chicago activists have called for a protest during a game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Chicago Cubs Thursday.

Government and activist groups in Mexico have asked their co-nationals to cancel trips to Arizona and avoid any trade with Arizona-based companies. Mexican media estimates that Mexicans spend seven million dollars per day in the border state.

The law is a questionable attempt to stop illegal immigrants from trying to enter the country through Arizona; however, there are three more states immigrants will bet on.

While Bill SB1070 will inevitably lead to racial profiling, it has started a debate that should serve to bring immigration reform to the national agenda.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.