In the absence of national-level immigration reform, Arizona has passed its own version. Unfortunately, it is not the type of immigration reform that most in the immigration community would appreciate. Specifically, Arizona’s new law requires foreign nationals to carry their immigration documents at all times and allows law enforcement to question any individual suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. Aside from the obvious problems of racial profiling and discrimination, laws such as this one continue to fracture an already cracked immigration system. This law will also, as many in the law enforcement community have pointed out, impede law enforcement’s efforts. Not only will this monopolize police time with questioning individuals “suspected” of being an illegal immigrant, but individuals who have witnessed crimes may not be willing to come forward if they fear being deported.
Arizona’s recent immigration law demonstrates why nationwide, comprehensive immigration reform is so desperately needed in this country. If not for the benefit of the foreign nationals whom have waited so patiently for a better system, then to prevent radical legislation like that passed in Arizona. Immigration is a federal issue under the constitution. By allowing individual States to dictate immigration reform, the system is going to become even more inconsistent and piecemeal. Arizona’s recent legislation should send a clear message to Congress that it needs to regulate this area of the law and it must act promptly. If not, each State will take it upon itself to pass its own version of immigration reform, as Arizona has done. Clearly, other States will be inspired to introduce similar legislation or perhaps even worse.
Interestingly, Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Secretary, preceded Jan Brewer as Governor of Arizona and vetoed several comparable bills that were placed on her desk for signature. Many different civil rights and immigration groups have staunchly opposed the bill, and the Mexican Government has even voiced its criticisms of the bill. Various groups have also vowed to challenge the law on constitutional grounds if signed into law by Governor Brewer. One can only hope that Governor Brewer realizes this law would do much more harm than good — socially, politically and economically — and veto the bill. The Governor has not made her position known and has another day to veto or sign the bill. Undoubtedly, the country, and perhaps other countries, will be watching closely to see what the Governor’s decision will be.