Weekly Diaspora: Arizona vs. ‘Anchor Babies’

 

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

After commanding the world’s attention in 2010 with its cavalier stance on immigration, the Arizona state legislature is threatening—once again—to dominate national immigration discourse and policy.

This week, Arizona state Senator and Senate President-Elect Russell Pearce (R) spoke candidly with CNN’s Jessica Yellin about his plans to introduce a birthright citizenship bill in Arizona this coming January—a move likely to be echoed in the impending Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Invoking the hysterical “anchor baby” hype that dominated some right-wing circles earlier this year, Pearce intends to pass state legislation denying automatic (or “birthright”) citizenship to the the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. Though birthright citizenship is constitutionally mandated under the 14th amendment and protected by Supreme Court precedent, it has nevertheless become a rallying cry for number of extremely anti-immigrant Republicans.

And while Pearce pushes the measure in Arizona, an influx of Republican U.S. representatives headed by Steve King (R-IA), the incoming chairman of the subcommittee that oversees immigration, will likely attempt to push a similar bill through Congress, according to Valeria Fernández at New America Media.

The plan, Fernández notes, is to take the contentious issue all the way to the (largely conservative) Supreme Court. But even if the issue makes it that far, it’s unlikely that the court would rule in its favor. This issue has reached the Supreme Court twice before (United States v. Wong Kim Arkin in 1898 and Pyler v. Doe in 1982) and in both cases the court maintained that birthright citizenship is constitutionally guaranteed.

Arizona: A model police state

As Pearce pushes the envelope on contentious immigration legislation in 2011, a flock of lawmakers from other states are scrambling to imitate his 2010 trailblazer, SB 1070—the controversial immigration law currently being challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice and a host of public interest organizations. Luke Johnson at the Washington Independent reports that legislators from 25 states are planning to introduce SB 1070 copycat bills next year. While the individual bills vary in scope and detail, they abide by the gist of SB 1070—criminalizing “illegal” immigrants, empowering or requiring law enforcement to ascertain and share the immigration status of individuals based on scant (or no) evidence, etc. Immigrant rights groups are concerned that the copycat bills would lead to racial profiling and the unlawful detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants without criminal records.

While few, if any, of the proposed measures are likely to pass unchallenged, the immense control Republicans now wield over state legislatures is cause for concern—as is the apparently immense influence Arizona lawmakers wield over their conservative neighbors.

Courtesy of the Washington Independent, here’s a breakdown of the states proposing copycat measures, and the likely outcomes:

Most likely to pass: Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina
Maybe: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia
Less Likely: Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island

Arizona’s ethnic studies ban goes into effect

Meanwhile, at the national level, the GOP plans to build support for its hard-line immigration agenda by propagating the fallacious notion that “illegal”immigrants steal American jobs and thus weaken the economy, according to Suzy Khimm at Mother Jones.

Accordingly, incoming House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) hopes to expand the E-Verify program—a controversial, federally-managed electronic system that allows employers to check the immigration status of potential employees. The program is supposed to drive down undocumented immigration by helping employers identify and then avoid hiring undocumented immigrants, but it has taken heat lately after a study suggested it was inaccurate 50 percent of the time.

Again, the fate of this immigration initiative could be shaped by what happens in Arizona, where an employer sanctions law requiring businesses to enroll in E-Verify has been challenged by the United States Chamber of Commerce. The case was heard before the Supreme Court earlier this month, with the federal government challenging the law on many of the same grounds upon which it is challenging SB 1070—chiefly that it preempts federal law. If the court rules against the employer sanctions law, the ruling could present serious implications for the proposed expansion of E-Verify which, while voluntary, is already unpopular with businesses concerned about the program’s cost and accuracy.

Arizona remains center stage in immigration debate

In 2010, Arizona legislators dominated the national immigration debate. As evidenced by Sarah Kate Kramer’s recap of the year in immigration at Feet in 2 Worlds, immigration discourse and policy across the national centered on several key events in Arizona. Most notably, Arizona made history by passing SB 1070 and a host of other controversial bills including bans on ethnic studies and equal opportunity programs. A campaigning Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) reinvented himself—from an immigrant sympathizer and DREAM Act supporter to a hard-line immigration hawk who just wants to “complete the danged fence.”

Perhaps the most powerful discourse- and policy-shaping tools wielded by Arizona officials, however, were simply lies. In March, public mania over border violence peaked after Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever erroneously claimed that Arizona rancher Robert N. Krentz Jr. was shot dead by an undocumented immigrant. Then, in June, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer made the outrageous (and widely disproven) claim that law enforcement agencies had found beheaded corpses in the Arizona desert.

Through the crafting of draconian immigration laws and the unabashed spread of misinformation, the Arizona legislature cast itself as a major player in the national immigration debate this year. Having done so, it looms as a a powerful force to be reckoned with in the next.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

Weekly Diaspora: The Final Fight for the DREAM Act

 

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

It’s a now-or-never moment for the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide a conditional path to citizenship for certain immigrant youth. The bill’s prospects won’t improve with next Congress’ influx of Republican legislators, and thousands of undocumented students and their bipartisan supporters are urging the Senate to pass the DREAM Act. But as the Senate appears ready to finally vote on the landmark bill, state lawmakers are moving in the exact opposite direction.

In California, Colorado and Minnesota, state legislators have recently filed enforcement bills modeled after Arizona’s draconian SB 1070, and a cadre of conservative citizens are already mobilizing in support of the measures. But whether those measures will hold up in light of mounting evidence that such bills are fiscally irresponsible remains to be seen.

Some lawmakers never learn…

New America Media reports that a Tea Party-backed immigration enforcement bill was filed in California last week, bolstered by a signature drive to raise support for the measure‘s inclusion on the 2012 ballot. Reading like a roll call of Arizona’s most controversial immigration measures to date, the bill would require law enforcement to perform immigration status checks, require businesses to use the notoriously ineffective E-Verify program, ban undocumented persons from driving or soliciting work on the street and prohibit sanctuary cities.

Meanwhile in Colorado, State Senator-elect Kent Lambert (R) announced his plans to introduce “a carbon copy of SB 1070” early in the next session, according to Scot Kersgaard at the Colorado Independent. Eschewing concerns about the bill’s constitutionality, Lambert added that if the bill is not passed and signed by Governor-elect John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, he would move to put the measure on the ballot.

And in Minnesota, Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent reports that a group called Minnesotans Seeking Immigration Reform (MINNSIR) is launching a petition to build support for an SB 1070 copy-cat bill expected to reach the House floor in the upcoming session. The group, derived from the Minnesota Minutemen (whom the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as “Nativist Extremist”), is known for spreading misinformation about immigrants, including the erroneous claim that Mexican immigrants spread leprosy.

SB 1070 vs. the Dream Act: A Cost Benefit Analysis

But while obstinate lawmakers doggedly push for SB 1070-styled legislation, evidence is mounting that such draconian measures are fiscally irresponsible.

As Marcos Restrepo reports at the American Independent, a new study commissioned  by the Center for American Progress reveals that Arizona has lost $400 million in economic output and $130 million in earnings as a result of SB 1070-provoked conference cancellations alone. Defending the measure, moreover, has already cost the state more than $1 million—a bill other states can anticipate footing should they move forward with similar legislation.

Restrepo notes that the high costs of imposing and defending such measures is economically impractical—especially when compared to the potential economic benefits of passing the DREAM Act. That bill could increase the nation’s pool of higher-income workers by up to 2 million college graduates, according to the Migration Policy Institute, which could ultimately generate $3.6 trillion for the economy over the next 40 years.

The DREAM Act builds momentum

The DREAM Act has the potential to be so beneficial that, as the clock ticks towards the 11th hour vote, the bill is garnering significant new bipartisan support. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has voiced her support for the measure, according to William Fisher at of the Inter Press Service News Agency, as have the editorial staffs of both the Wall Street Journal and the Economist. Moreover, former Secretary of State Colin Powell is a long-time vocal advocate of the act on the grounds that “immigrants strengthen America.” (Campus Progress has more on that).

And the Obama administration has come fully on board, finally assuming a “high profile, public role” in passing the DREAM Act, according to Julianne Hing at ColorLines. Hing notes that the move is a stark, if welcome, departure from the administration’s usual approach to immigration reform, which has favored punitive, enforcement heavy bills over comprehensive reform.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse<. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

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