Arizona Bill ‘puts racial profiling into law’Giles Whittell, Washington
An anti-immigration law condemned as a licence for racial profiling is expected to come into force in Arizona within the next 48 hours. The law would be the first in the US to give police the power to stop citizens and demand proof of legal residence in the US merely on suspicion of not carrying appropriate papers.
Arizona’s Republican Governor, under pressure from right-wing rivals for her job, has until Saturday afternoon to sign or veto the measure. The Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, a leading champion of immigration reform, has denounced it as a mandate for “German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques” of snooping and betrayal.
Up to ten other states are said to be considering similar laws as pressure mounts on the Republican Right and along America’s southern border for state-based immigration crackdowns in the absence of federal immigration reform.
The Arizona Bill would make it a crime for legal immigrants not to carry their alien registration papers, and would allow police to arrest those unable to produce them — potentially upending the presumption of innocence underpinning US law and the principle that its enforcement should be colour-blind.
One of the measure’s Republican sponsors, Representative John Kavanagh, called it “a comprehensive immigration enforcement bill that addresses the concerns of our communities, constituents and colleagues ... gives our local police officers the tools they need to combat illegal immigration”.
The progress of the hugely controversial Bill through the state assembly has been closely watched throughout the country, and helped by a wave of anger over the murder of an Arizona rancher 20 miles from the Mexican border last month. Robert Krentz, 58, was gunned down on his own property by an unknown assailant whom police assume was an illegal immigrant involved in a drug-smuggling operation.
In a sign of the pressure on moderate conservatives to be seen to get tough on illegal immigration in an election year, Senator John McCain, once a champion of progressive immigration reform, has stunned former colleagues by endorsing the Bill. “The state of Arizona is acting and doing what it feels it needs to do in light of the fact that the federal government is not fulfilling its fundamental responsibility — to secure our borders,” he told Fox News as the measure was approved by the State Assembly on Monday.
The Bill also has the support of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, the senior law enforcement official in the Phoenix area, who has gloried for decades in the unofficial title of “America’s toughest cop”. Mr Arpaio has courted sanction by federal authorities for years by encouraging his deputies to stop those they suspect of being illegal immigrants and demand to see their papers.
Arizona has the highest per capita population of undocumented aliens, with 460,000 at the latest estimate. Cardinal Mahoney has called the new Bill “the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited and useless anti-immigrant law”.
The Arizona state assembly has invited further controversy by granting initial approval to a Bill that would require President Obama to submit his birth certificate before having his name entered on ballot papers for the 2012 presidential election.
Accusations that Mr Obama was not born in the US and is therefore not eligible for the Presidency have lingered in the blogosphere since his candidacy gained national traction in 2007. As a matter of record, he was born on August 4, 1961, in Hawaii where his birth certificate is on file. His campaign has released a certified scanned copy of the certificate but some 40 per cent of Americans remain doubtful or unsure where he was born, according to polls.
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