With the healthcare reform slowly fading into the background, a new law in Arizona that creates a harsh crackdown on immigration has caught national attention from both Republicans and Democrats.
Last Friday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the bill that would require immigrants to carry documents verifying their immigration status. It would also allow police officers to question a person about his or her immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that person may be illegally in the country. This is the first state legislation introduced dealing with immigration from Mexico into the United States. Although illegal immigration has been a hot-button issue among political parties, there has been no national consensus.
With an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants living in Arizona, most Arizona citizens support the new immigration law and say that it protects them from crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Many states see this as an opportunity to follow suit and push a comparable agenda to Arizona. According to the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle, Republican Rep. Debbie Riddle of Texas said on Tuesday that she would push for an anti-immigration bill that is similar to the one that Arizona just passed. Riddle said that she would introduce the new measure in January during the legislative session. Many individuals in favor of the bill have expressed that this has become necessary measure on the state level because federal government has not acted on the urgency of immigration reform.
Although many Republicans are in favor of stricter immigration laws, prominent conservatives have already spoken out against this new bill and the negative consequences it could bring. Karl Rove, former chief political strategist for President George W. Bush, said that the new bill has some “constitutional problems” and that he wishes “they hadn’t passed it.”
Rove followed up by expressing his concern over the imminent racial profiling that will occur in association with this bill. “These are modern police forces that respect the rights of people in their communities,” Rove said. “They’re going to do it on the basis of reasonable suspicion that these people are here illegally, like they’re driving a car with a Mexican license plate or they can’t speak English or they don’t have a drivers license.” Many others express similar concerns, such as South Carolina’s Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and expected GOP Senate candidate in Florida, Marco Rubio. While Arizona Senator John McCain has refrained from criticizing the new bill, his daughter Meghan McCain has publicly exclaimed that the law is “seriously flawed.”
In addition to Republican fears, Democrats have expressed concern and distaste for the new bill. President Obama echoed Rove’s worry of racial profiling when he said that the bill would make it “really tough on people who look like they, ëmight be illegal immigrants.'” Obama has asked Republicans to join Democrats to work together to find a permanent federal solution to the country’s worn-down immigration system. “I will bring the majority of Democrats to the table in getting this done,” Obama said in response to a question at a town hall in south-central Iowa. “But I’ve got to have some help from the other side.” Texas State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, a San Antonio Democrat and former president of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, called the law “extremely damaging and hateful.”
Mexico’s government has warned the proposal could affect cross-border relations. On Thursday, the country’s senate unanimously passed a resolution urging Brewer to veto the law. Mexican President Felipe Calderon said the law is discriminatory and warned that trade and political ties with Arizona will be seriously strained by the crackdown.
For now, America watches along with the rest of the world as to whether Obama will follow-up on his plea for alternative action. As of now, he has no timeline set forth, but has stated that he hopes to get the deal accomplished “sometime soon.”