Being a border state, Arizona has always battled with the immigration debate with the intention of curbing Mexicans from crossing over from their country and settling in the state. In the past, the limelight had been on Joe Arpio, the Maricopa county sheriff known for his tough stance on immigration in his county.
Lately though, the signing of an immigration law that seems to curtail the freedom of the people by Governor Jan Brewer rattled some feathers not only in the state, but in the larger US and among the human right circles. Even Mexican president who had for the better part of the immigration row kept mum said that the new law “opens the door to intolerance, hate, discrimination and abuse in law enforcement” (MacAskill 2).
So is the criticism by the UN right experts as reported by Eliane Engeler for the Associated Press justified? Well, according to the article, the UN experts claim that the Arizona Immigration Law is an affront to human right regulation set in the United States.
Further, they claim that the law is against the US constitution, which protect citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by the law enforcement officers. According to MacAskill, the law gives police in Arizona the powers to stop people they suspect to be illegal immigrants for questioning (3).
It is feared that in the border state that a sizeable number of legal Latinos residing therein, the law will lead to victimization and unwarranted, unjustifiable searches, which will have racist connotations since they will target “suspicious looking and sounding” people.
Among the issues raised by the UN experts is the fact that Arizona has an obligation to uphold the human rights of people living within its jurisdiction. With the discriminative law in place, it is hard to imagine that the Latinos, who will always be suspected of being aliens because of their skin color and their accents will have any rights in the state.
Among the controversial provisions in the law is a requirement that obligates residents in Arizona to always carry their registration documents. The law also requires the police to question any person they suspect is an alien in the state. Additionally, the law states that any legal American who knowingly transports and hires illegal immigrants will be liable to legal action (Bash et al. 2).
Before taking sides against the criticism leveled at the law, however it is important to understand what motivated the passing of such a law. Writing for the Guardian Newspapers, Tran observes that Arizona has faced years of frustrations trying to curb illegal immigration from Mexico (7).
To fate, the state remains the single largest entry-point of illegal immigrants into the United States. Apart from this, a sizeable number of the immigrants (approximately 460,000); reside in the state thus straining the State resources.
Critics claim that though the immigrants use the state resources such as health facilities, schools and basic infrastructure, they do not contribute to the State’s taxes mainly because of their illegal status. More to this, the increased crime rates in the state, which include kidnappings and drug trafficking is blamed on the huge influx of immigrants who due to lack of skills often cannot earn enough money to support their lifestyles (Tran 7).
According to Engeler, human right experts working with the United Nations are adamant that no situation in Arizona warrants such a law (3). They specifically take offence with the law because it opens the legal doors to justify legal profiling in a state where Latinos have suffered under suspicion of being aliens irrespective of the fact that a good percentage of them have registration documents.
Riccardi notes that even the law enforcement officers who will be charged with the responsibility of upholding the law once its enacted as law later in July, 2010 are aware of the racist and discriminative nature of the law(2).
A case in point is a police officer whose patrol duties lies near a school in Phoenix, lodged a complaint in court claiming that the law will force him to stop school going children in order to ascertain if they are in the state illegally.
Amid the criticisms raised by the public and human right activists, it is notable that lawmakers in Arizona made some changes in the initial bill signed by the state governor and ostensibly removed words that encouraged racial profiling.
The revised law now requires police officers to scrutinize the immigration status of people who have been stopped at police checks, detained or arrested. The law also bars the use of race as the basis for scrutinizing people.
In a state where most Latinos are suspected of being illegal immigrants, it is hard to imagine how police officers will restrain from using race as a reason for scrutiny. Besides, most illegal immigrants are from Mexico and thus more prone to being stopped by police because of their skin color.
It’s hard to imagine Arizona without the Latino community, most of who perform the manual labor that the ordinary well educated American would find hard to do. To say the least, America has benefited greatly from the immigrants who enter the country by the thousands annually. The contribution that such immigrants have on the country’s growth and development cannot be understated.
Rather than enforce a law that will have bad social connotation not only in Arizona but also in the wider United States of America, the lawmakers in Arizona should work at ensuring that the border patrols are more stringent and that only legal migrants are allowed entry into the state in future.
It is also worth noting that immigrants who beat all odds to enter the state from Mexico always do so in search of a better life. This essay holds the opinion that as human beings, the immigrants should be given a chance to work and live in Arizona or other states provided they do not contravene social laws that uphold the welfare of the residence of Arizona.
The argument that they do not contribute to the welfare of the state besides straining the resources such as schools, health facilities and housing still does not hold any water. By working for American employers, they contribute to the welfare of the state albeit indirectly.
With political will and the right legislation, this essay holds the opinion that the immigrants can contribute taxes to the state and hence pay back to the state for the resources they use while residing therein. Overall however, the law is archaic and needs not find a place in modern day America since it goes against the very precepts of human rights and freedoms.
Bash, Dana, Hornick, Ed, &Keck, Kristi. What Does Arizona Immigration Law Do? CNN. April 2010. Web. 7 July 2010. http://edition.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/04/23/immigration.faq/index.html
Engeler, Eliane. UN rights Experts Criticize Arizona Law. Associated Press. May 2010. Web. 7 July 2010. http://www.boston.com/news/world/europe/articles/2010/05/11/un_rights_experts_criticize_arizona_law/
MacAskill, Ewen. Arizona Immigration Law Encourages Police Abuse, Says Mexican President. The Guardian. April 2010. Web. 7 July 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/27/arizona-immigration-law
Riccardi, Nicholas. Arizona Lawmakers Modify immigration Law. Los Angeles Times. May 2010. Web. 7 July 2010. http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/01/nation/la-na-arizona-immigration-20100501
Tran, Mark. Obama Administration to Sue Arizona over Migrant Laws. The Guardian. July 2010. Web. 7 July 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/07/obama-administration-to-sue-arizona-migrant-laws