Arizona Senate Bill 1070: Context and Implications

Seattle May Day March 2010

Arizona Senate Bill 1070: Context and Implications

In wake of polemic debate surrounding immigration reform, the most stringent bill approved at the state level so far, is SB 1070 in the State of Arizona, signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer. The legislation itself, championed by ultra-right State Senator Russell Pearce with the backing of many anti-immigrant groups was written by a lawyer for perennial anti-immigrant lobby Federation for American Immigration Reform’s (FAIR) legal arm. FAIR is an organization categorized by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC is a legal advocacy organization that tracks hate and extremist groups nationally) as a Nativist Hate Group.

Provisions within SB 1070 make it unlawful in Arizona to: work or solicit work without documentation; hire or be hired if person being employed enters a car that is blocking traffic; transport, move, conceal, harbor, shield, or encourage an undocumented person to come to Arizona; and have state agencies restrict enforcement of federal immigration law, among others. Additionally, the bill endows local and state law enforcement with the power to determine a person’s immigration status upon arrest, before the person is released. Likewise, police are able to stop or question a person about their documented status based on “reasonable suspicion,” making the simple act of walking or being out in public without proper documentation a detainable offense.

In larger, national parlance, the introduction of SB 1070 has grave implications as provisions are a total affront to civil liberties, human and civil rights, and sets a dangerous precedent in which racial profiling and ethnic targeting are legitimized as law enforcement tactic. According to the AzCapitalTimes.com, a news service that tracks Arizona politics, other states are introducing copycat bills, while others await legal challenges to SB 1070 before they introduce legislation. States taking such action include: Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, Texas, Utah, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Tennessee, Ohio, Rhode Island, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

On July 28th, some of the provisions were momentarily struck down by a federal court judge of which include: the ability to stop someone “suspected” of being undocumented without a warrant; the ban on day laborers’ ability to solicit and perform work; and the requirement for immigrants to carry federal immigration documents at all times. The rest of the provisions under the bill went into effect on July 29th. A partial victory and indeed a very important one. However, the struggle continues to ensure the entire bill is repealed and to quash any anti-immigrant state bills from replication in other states.

–Oscar Rosales Castañeda