We Need Progress, Not Profiling in Arizona

An alarming and unconstitutional measure that blows the door wide open to massive racial profiling is poised to become law in the Grand Canyon State. SB 1070 has already passed both state legislative bodies, and if Governor Jan Brewer signs the bill, it would make being an undocumented immigrant in Arizona a misdemeanor and enable police to exact verification of anyone's immigration status with nothing but a "reasonable suspicion" that a person is undocumented. About 50 years ago, Alabama was enforcing similar laws, and we should have learned then that these measures degrade our nation's values. Furthermore, funding a bad law that will likely require high litigation costs and stretch an already struggling state budget is just added pain for Arizona taxpayers.

Aside from not solving the country's broken immigration system, this bill will affect U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. Roughly 26% of Arizona's population is Latino, and the vast majority are U.S. citizens or legal residents. Therefore, more than one-quarter of the state's population is at risk of suffering civil rights abuses and other affronts because of this bill. Arizona Senator Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), the main sponsor of SB 1070, believes that fears of racial profiling are unwarranted, but as he put it, "Ninety percent of the illegal aliens in Arizona come from south of the border, so it [appearance] certainly may be a factor."

We need to stop playing politics with the lives of people, our tax dollars, and the resources of local law enforcement. The proposed Arizona law is unethical and unconstitutional, not to mention un-American. Those pushing for the bill are the same proponents that pushed for Proposition 200 five years ago. The proposition, which requires proof of citizenship for voting and for certain public benefits and requires state employees to report immigration law violations, was presented as the silver bullet that would fix our broken immigration system--five years later it has not, and neither will SB 1070.

We can either spend billions on misplaced enforcement that violates civil rights and holds unauthorized workers in detention centers waiting to be deported, or we can require undocumented residents to pay taxes, learn English, and become full participants in our country. With state budgets already strapped, consider this: Deporting 12 million undocumented workers would drain $2.5 trillion over ten years from our nation's gross domestic product. SB 1070's cost to Arizona taxpayers will be enormous, and the court costs that will inevitably rise will be pulled right out of U.S. taxpayers' wallets.

Polls consistently show that, despite the economic downturn, Americans want pragmatic, concrete solutions to immigration. Only through a comprehensive overhaul of our nation's broken immigration system will effective, sustainable solutions be achievable. Without immigration reform, U.S. policy defaults to an unsustainable status quo that has at its epicenter the forced relocation of 12 million people. Until Congress and the administration step in to do what is right for our country, other states will follow Arizona's lead and enact a patchwork of immigration laws that will exacerbate the problem and add a new layer of sanctioned civil rights abuse. Our immigration system should reflect American values and the will of our people. We have always solved problems in this country, and it's time we solved this one. There is nothing more American than that.