A Victory in Arizona

In a victory yesterday, a judge's ruling (PDF) will prevent some of the most contested provisions of Arizona’s controversial immigration law from going into effect.

One of the problematic provisions of the law, S.B. 1070, requires police officers to verify the immigration status (i.e., “check the papers”) of anyone stopped, detained, or arrested—even for traffic violations and other routine stops—when there is "reasonable suspicion" the person is undocumented.

As state and local governments, advocates, and activists have noted, this law promotes racial profiling. Singling out people based solely on stereotyping isn’t just wrong, it’s also bad policing, as law enforcement organizations have pointed out. Our communities need to focus on workable solutions that uphold our values and move us forward together. Fixing our immigration system the right way is about what kind of country we want to be. This law certainly illustrates what we don’t want to become.

As the spotlight on the Arizona law heats up, the growing chorus of voices opposed to the anti-immigrant measure is being matched in intensity by those supporting it. No fewer than twenty-two laws mimicking Arizona's provisions are currently being considered across the country.

It is important to remember that anti-immigrant sentiment did not spring up overnight. If the law is ultimately struck down, there will still be those with a desire to vent their frustrations on those who have little power—those who, at the end of the day, want what all of us want: to contribute and participate fully in American economy and society.

The vitriol surrounding the debates on Arizona's law can too-easily obscure the fact that, according to a public opinion poll (PDF) conducted by Lake Research Partners and Public Opinion Strategies, 57% of Americans support an immigration reform plan that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Once Americans are exposed to a brief description of that plan, that number rises to 78% in support of such reform. These numbers highlight what we have always known—that, in our country, the ideas and values that bring us together are stronger than those that divide us.

Instead of enforcement-only quick fixes, what we need are real workable solutions that reflect our national commitment to fair and dignified treatment, and that bring our country together.

Arizona's citizens' frustration with a badly broken immigration system is understandable, even if their state's response is the wrong one. The court's ruling is another sign, as if more were needed, that Congress must enact commonsense immigration reform that includes smarter border enforcement, accountability for employers and newcomers alike, and a realistic path for undocumented immigrants to work, pay all taxes, and become citizens.

Tags: immigration, SB 1070, Opportunity, Arizona (all tags)

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