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Opinion: Immigration Law Shows Need for Real Reform

Apr 26, 2010 – 4:34 PM
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Michael Arceneaux

Michael Arceneaux Contributor

(April 26) -- Someone forgot to tell the state of Arizona that we live in "post-racial America" and in "post-racial America" we don't legalize racial profiling. Apparently, the state of Arizona doesn't care and passed Arizona Senate Bill 1070 anyway. Still, the law could do some good if it gets immigration reform off the blocks in Washington.

The law, which was signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on April 23, requires police to question residents about their immigration status if there's "reasonable suspicion" they are in the country illegally.

If immigrants are unable to produce documents to counter such suspicion, they are subject to arrest, jail up to six months and a hefty fine. Police officers in any jurisdiction are subject to jail if they fail to enforce the law as stringently as called upon to.

Other Views on the Arizona Immigration Law

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio told NBC's Matt Lauer, "We know how to enforce the illegal immigration laws without racial profiling."

With 30 percent of Arizona's population Latino, what are the chances of Arpaio instructing his officers to target undocumented Italians as aggressively as Mexicans?

Already a national uproar has erupted in response to its passage, and President Barack Obama assailed the law, saying it threatens "to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe."

In response, Brewer noted after signing the law, "We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act. But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation."

Brewer's point is hard to counter.

ABC News reports that officials from the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security are looking to see if there are any actions they should take in response to the law -- including the option to file lawsuits.

Here's a thought on how the Obama administration can properly respond: Pass real immigration reform.

Short-term solutions like potentially lengthy legal fights may sound like decisive action to some, but to Hispanic leaders and others patiently waiting for real reform, it's simply not enough as other states begin to consider similar legislation to Arizona Senate Bill 1070.

Six years ago, a then President George W. Bush criticized a system that has "millions of hardworking men and women condemned to fear and insecurity in a massive undocumented economy." He urged Congress to pass a bill that tied tougher border security and workplace enforcement measures with legalizing an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

Republicans denied support for what they dubbed an "amnesty bill" while Democrats cynically questioned Bush's motives. In 2007 Bush's reform bill was defeated.

And here we are still debating, still protesting, still not getting anything accomplished. Already, previous mistakes are currently being made. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., is accusing Democrats of playing politics, while Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has pulled support for a climate bill in response to the move for immigration reform.

There's also debate over whether Democrats can work on both climate change and immigration reform. Multitasking has never been Congress' strong suit, but perhaps it's time to try something new. There are millions of Latinos in this country that simply aren't going anywhere.

Instead of allowing Arizona to spur heightened fear, distrust and costly litigation, it's time for the federal government to step up and solve this problem for good.

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Filed under: Opinion
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