Guest Post: Manuel Giner’s Inside Look Into Arizona Politics

In Foreign Policy, Immigration, NLLSA, Politics, U.S. Government on April 28, 2010 by nllsa

About a month ago, Rob Krentz was murdered on his Arizona ranch along the Mexico-U.S. border. His murder, linked to drug cartel violence, sparked a visceral reaction in Arizona, my home state.

For anybody who has lived in Arizona this past decade, these tensions are well known. The Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector is heavily trafficked by smugglers of both human and drug cargo.  Phoenix is now America’s kidnapping capital—most of which are directly related to Mexican drug cartels.

Given these problems, when a law is presented to the people of Arizona as a tool to combat border crime, it will easily garner public support. As evidenced by its title, “The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act”, SB 1070 is being presented as exactly that: a public safety measure. Unsurprisingly, 70% of Arizona voters support the measure, according to a recent Rasmussen poll.

Unfortunately, SB 1070 does not address these problems. Instead, the bill makes two fundamental mistakes. First, it attacks crime in an inefficient and counterproductive way. The belief that state authorities will be able to curtail border related crime via individual traffic stop is untenable. Ultimately, vast amounts of police resources will be devoted to detaining and deporting people who are generally harmless. The Daily Show recently joked that Arizona is “looking for people acting suspiciously, like gardening or burping people’s babies.”  As usual, a lot of truth is said in jest.

The fact is, the link between crime and illegal immigration is tenuous at best.  American-born males are five times more likely to commit a crime than their foreign born counterparts.  There is simply no causation between immigration and crime.  Put differently, SB 1070 is completely reactionary, with little foundation in common sense.

Secondly, the bill creates an environment where American-born Latinos are likely to be accosted by police due to their ethnicity and race in order to prove their citizenship. The bill would not only encourage, but require police officers to inquire about a suspect’s legal status upon “reasonable suspicion” that they are here illegally. Despite the promises of the bill’s proponents, there is no way to predict whether somebody may be here illegally without taking their race, language, and general appearance into account. Imagine trying to decipher somebody’s immigration status over the phone, where race and ethnicity is more difficult to discern. Even then, we would be completely dependent on our suspect’s language skills—another prejudicial form of profiling that would lead to civil rights violations.

Can’t we agree that American citizens should not be subjected to police interrogation because of their race? Is this not repugnant to our values?

I spent one amazing legislative session working at the Arizona State Senate. I still have friends there and still keep in touch. However, nothing coming out of the legislature recently has surprised me. Latinos, American- and foreign-born, have been a favorite target of the legislature for a while. A similar version of SB 1070 was floating around when I was there. Another bill tried to ban “La Raza studies” in high schools because it did not “inculcate American values”. Bills were introduced creating different birth certificates for babies, despite their American citizenship, born to parents who could not provide documentation. Another popular, though fantastical, bill petitioned the federal government to redefine the 14th amendment so that children born to foreigners are not given automatic citizenship.

SB 1070 is symptomatic of a long running trend of ideas and bills that overreach at the expense of all Arizona Latinos. In Arizona, Latinos are almost a third of the population but are only a tenth of the electorate. Consequently, they are underrepresented in government, and when they are represented, they are overwhelmingly opposed to all such measures introduced by the majority. Of the eleven Latinos voting on the measure, ten voted against it. With little voice in the state, and the consequences of an awful bill looming, it is time for those who in power to do what they can to reverse this trend.

Manuel Giner of Phoenix, Arizona, is a student at Yale Law School, where he is the Chairman of the Latino Law Students Association.


4 Responses to “Guest Post: Manuel Giner’s Inside Look Into Arizona Politics”

  1. Let me get this straight: SB 1070 intends to stop smuggling, drug trafficking, crimes against citizens and the presence of undocumented workers by forcing LEGAL immigrants to carry papers in order to avoid arrest. The opponents of immigration in Arizona are fond of saying that they have nothing against those who have “played by the rules.” Yet they see no problem in stigmatizing this segment of the population with a symbolic “Star of David.”

    Makes you wonder who it is that the law is truly targeting.

  2. I think to avoid unconstitutionality the law will need to be made colorblind… as it will not meet the strict scrutiny test as it stands. Narrowly draw the law: after every arrest in Arizona (citizenship/visa papers must be shown)…. (ie…. no matter what race/ethnicity)… everyone will know if they go to Arizona they better be legit or be at risk for deportation….

  3. Don’t trust that poll: respondents were 81 percent white while 30 percent of Arizonans are Hispanic. And 53 percent were either very concerned or somewhat concerned that “efforts to identify and deport illegal immigrants will also end up violating the civil rights of some U.S. citizens.”

  4. I think Manuel is astute to link this repulsive legislation to fear of crime, however irrational we think the connection. Advocates for immigrants need not be tongue-tied here. They can address concern about crime. Eradicating violent drug cartels in any community requires that the people of the community cooperate fully with law enforcement. 1070 will have exactly the opposite result.

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