Arizona: The unofficial-official police state

Thisanjali Gangoda

America is, and always will be, a nation of immigrants. Our way of life is constantly influenced by the history and culture of the growing immigrant population. It’s what makes our country beautiful and diverse, this hodgepodge, tossed salad, melting pot of people from all over the world. Unfortunately, there are those who seem to have forgotten their humble beginnings of Ellis Island after gaining the legislative power to pass and enact an anti-immigration bill in the state of Arizona.

Last Friday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the nation’s most extensive, discriminatory immigration bill into state law. Its intentions are to discover, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants who pass through the Mexican-American border. Police and government officials of Arizona are now required to stop anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant, based solely on appearance and generalized intent. Individuals that are questioned will be required to show authorities immigration papers at a second’s notice. If they can’t comply, they’re charged with a misdemeanor and are to prove those papers true at a later date. In essence, the bill promotes random investigation by way of racial profiling and arrests of anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant.

With illegal immigration being a priority during the past decade through growing media hype and distrust in Hispanic communities, the bill in Arizona isn’t a new order from the paranoid Republican majority. For years, proponents of such a bill have been vying to protect their American lands from possible “invaders,” arguing that it would be a preventive measure against drug cartels and crime. In Arizona, the recent murder of a white rancher is said to have offset the passing of the vaguely worded immigration bill.

Before Gov. Brewer even signed the bill, President Obama and others voiced strong concerns over the ramifications of such a bill being passed. It would set new precedent for dealing with immigrant fractions, requiring police forces to investigate anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant. President Obama was quoted as saying that the bill 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.”

This bill is an unproductive measure that completely overlooks the underlying issues at hand. While illegal immigration is a real concern with unforeseen consequences, this isn’t the way to handle it. By allowing conservative-minded party leaders to pass laws that will institutionalize fear, racial profiling and infringement of individual’s rights, we are in no way solving the problem.

Arizona’s government has chosen to galvanize ethnic tensions and discrimination that exist nationwide between the Hispanic community and others. It’s comparable to the way we treated Japanese citizens during World War II and Muslims after Sept. 11. By preemptively deciding upon the “enemy” through loosely worded legislation, brute force and propaganda, Americans are again left powerless to the police and the government.

We must voice our discontent and demand a revoking of this retrogressive law.

Thisanjali Gangoda is a senior political science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].