The past two weeks I was out of the country and upon returning to the United States, I was faced with the sad reality that Arizona passed the controversial SB1070 law. This harsh law allows police officers to determine the immigration status of any person when they have a "reasonable suspicion" that the person is undocumented. If the person does not have identification documents, they can be arrested instantly.
Other alarming points of the law:
1. Gives the police authority to arrest a person without a warrant. It is sufficient to have a suspicion that the person has committed a public offense that subjects him to deportation from the country.
2. Makes it a crime not to carry documents proving immigration status.
3. Prohibits undocumented day laborers from soliciting work on the street and penalizes them and those who employ them if they disrupt the normal flow of traffic when soliciting work.
Barely a week after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer approved the law, several pro-immigrant groups, including MALDEF, announced that they would file lawsuits to prevent the law from taking effect on July 22 of this year.
There is a strong likelihood that this law violates several provisions of the U.S. Constitution. Among them: the federal government's sole right to legislate immigration laws, the obligation to issue arrest warrants previously authorized by a judge, and the freedom of speech of day laborers. In addition, this law opens the door to possible civil rights violations. It is worrisome that this law will also diminish the immigrant community's trust in the police and possibly cause them not to turn to them when they are victims of crimes.
What is happening in Arizona demonstrates the need for the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation as soon as possible.