The Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer recently signed a bill stating that will require police to ask people about immigration status if they suspect they here illegally. Failure to carry immigration documents would be a crime. Supporters of the bill claim that Arizona will “just be enforcing the law” and that “all civil liberties will be protected.” Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status. The Governor herself even said she “would not tolerate any racial profiling.”
But I have to wonder…who will be targeted in this new law? What will lead police to suspect that an individual is an illegal immigrant?
Proponents of the law cite the murder of a rancher Rob Krentz, who was believed to be shot by an illegal immigrant connected to a Mexican drug cartel. The sponsor of the bill, Representative Russell Pearce showed his support for the bill by saying, “Illegal is illegal. We’ll have less crime. We’ll have lower taxes. We’ll have safer neighborhoods. We’ll have shorter lines in the emergency rooms. We’ll have smaller classrooms.”
I believe that the murder of Rob Krentz was a tragedy, but I also believe that it was the result, not of illegal immigrant behavior, but because of the behavior of a person lacking a moral compass. When the police in Arizona are occupied tracking the actions of those who may or may not be here illegally, I have to wonder, who will be taking care of the real criminals with depravity, greed and hatred in their hearts?
All of this, of course, brings up the argument that illegal immigrants are a burden on the American society who take jobs away from hard working Americans and that they cause a rise in criminal activity. But chew on these facts from Justice for Immigrants:
Immigrants pay between $90-140 billion a year in federal, state and local taxes. However, the amount of public benefits that they use amounts to only about $5 billion.
Immigrant entrepreneurs create job opportunities for US and foreign workers. For instance, companies in Silicon Valley started by Chinese and Indian immigrants generated more than 73,000 jobs in 2000.
Immigrants take jobs in many parts of the US economy and can contribute up to $500 billion towards the US Social Security system.
Aside from these facts, many immigrants also take low-skilled, low-paying manual labor jobs that many Americans won’t take.
Those who believe that Arizona’s new law won’t lead to any kind of racial profiling are sorely mistaken. Again, I have to question, what does an illegal immigrant even look like? Do I look like an illegal immigrant? Does my blond haired blue eyed friend look like an illegal immigrant? And if the two of us were walking around the city of Tucson, which one of us is more likely to be suspected of being here illegally? If I don’t want to be bothered, should I dye my hair blond, pop in some blue contact lenses and lighten my skin? And while I’m at it, should I stop speaking any language other than English, refrain from buying ethnic cuisine and remove the Filipino flag that I now proudly display in my home? I guess I should also buy a flag pin while I’m at it.
Hundreds of years ago, the Statue of Liberty welcomed immigrants to the United States with the promise of a better life and endless opportunities for those who were willing to work hard. Flash-forward to 2010 and they are now greeted by law enforcement officials and demands to prove that they belong here. Thanks a lot Arizona.