President Barack Obama continues to push for a bipartisan way forward on the ever-growing issue of illegal immigration. The latest action on the immigration front was a lawsuit filed by the federal government last week challenging a tough new Arizona immigration law.
Arizona’s new immigration enforcement bill, which is set to go into effect later this month, requires law enforcement across the state to question individuals who impose “reasonable suspicion” regarding their immigration status.
Previously, officers could check someone’s immigration status only if that person was suspected of another crime. Now, in order to avoid arrest, citizens and immigrants will have to carry their “papers” at all times. This bill is considered to be among the toughest immigration measures in the nation.
However, there is much cynicism on both sides of Congress regarding the movement of immigration reform. The last time this issue was debated, during the Bush administration, only a handful of Republicans joined in and that was mostly due to President Bush’s leadership.
President Obama’s speech on the need for immigration reform earlier this month failed to revive the stalemated immigration legislation process, as most Republicans are not willing to move forward or even address the issue right now. Consequently, even President Obama has said that this bill can only pass with Republican help.
“Look, we need to solve this problem, we need accountability in the system at the border. We need accountability among employers so they are not violating the law. We need the accountability on the part of the 11 million who are here illegally. We can do that, but we have to do it together,” President Obama told a bipartisan group last summer.
The controversy regarding immigration has heightened since the state of Arizona decided to take this issue into its own hands and take over what is a federal responsibility, potentially harming U.S. foreign policy with Central America and Mexico, and basically passing a law that is unavoidably racial profiling, specifically towards Hispanics which make up 42% of the state’s population.
Arizona’s desire to act is clearly understandable, as illegal immigration is a mounting problem for the state, but the legislation is inconsistent with the federal constitution.
However, supporters of the Arizona bill argue that the law does not interfere with or go against federal statutes. They have recently implemented a protocol called 287(g), which is also used in other states, designed to have local law enforcement agencies help federal authorities with immigration enforcement.
The bill’s leading sponsor, Republican state Senator Russell Pearce, commented to CNN’s “Campbell Brown” in an interview just hours after the federal lawsuit against the state was filed saying, “The Obama administration are simply trying to enforce their current policy of no enforcement and amnesty. That’s what it’s about. They’re not worried about (racial) profiling and this bill prohibits it,” Pearce said.
Democratic State Representative Kyrsten Sinema strongly disagreed saying, “The Department of Justice has the clear authority and legal right to bring suit, even before the law is implemented. This law presents a great challenge and really interesting legal question for our whole country, and hopefully this lawsuit can provide some clarity… so we can know where the state authority ends in terms of implementing immigration reform and where federal authority begins.”
It is undeniable that Arizona Representative Sinema makes a valid point in the need for clarification on the issue of immigration. American citizens, as well as illegal immigrants, need to clearly know where the issue lies and how it will be resolved. It is unquestionable that illegal immigrants are residing in the nation by their own standards and that it is not acceptable, however, the trick is to find a solution that deals with the matter without violating the rights of American citizens who may share the same ethnicity of the majority of those illegal immigrants.
The current Arizona bill is not only a threat to the American citizens in its own state but American citizens in every state.
The government has their rights, but the people have their rights too. It’s not about fighting against each other; it’s about working with each other to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.
How may this affect you? (From a local perspective)
According to the last reported numbers in 2005, only 3% of Louisiana’s population is Hispanic. Most come from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador and mainly Honduras. The city of New Orleans alone has one of the largest Honduran American communities in the nation.
Other minority groups making up the remaining percentages of the state’s demographics include African Americans (33%), Asians (1.6%), and Native American or Alaskan Native (1%).
Imagine if this law was being passed in Louisiana. There is enough racial profiling here as it is without a law actually allowing it to potentially increase. A solution is needed, but it needs to be the right solution.
For additional information on immigration, visit the Center for Immigration Studies website.
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