How SB 1070 Will Affect Arizona
In what appears to be at the very least politically informed timing, President Obama gave a speech Friday in which he announced an executive order, effective immediately, that would halt deportation proceedings for some younger illegal immigrants and lay out a path for them to obtain work permits. Not only will this directive neutralize some of the new hazards SB 1070 would place in front of many young Arizona Latinos, but it gives the president an opportunity to put out a marker on this issue just days before a conservative Supreme Court is likely to reaffirm a law signed and advocated for by a Republican governor who has become, to her great delight, the embodiment of the hard line on immigration.
“I think Latino voters are going to see what’s hurting their communities, and what’s helping them,” said Daniel Rodriguez, a co-founder of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, in a phone interview from the Phoenix area. “So as they see that SB 1070, which is supported by the Republicans, is hurting their communities and they see that the only thing that’s helping right now is what President Obama did, I think that Latinos are going to be very, very aware of, and be cognizant of, who they’re going to be voting for come November.”
While mentioning that he believed the upcoming Supreme Court decision influenced the timing, Rodriguez credited a two-year campaign that was pushing even harder in recent weeks for getting the president to his current position, which he called “welcome news” for concerned workers, students and families.
“It is a validation of the work immigrants’ rights organizers have been doing,” Rodriguez said. “It’s also a validation of the growing electoral power Latinos have especially in critical Southwestern states.”
This increasing electoral power means a brighter spotlight on the partisan clash on immigration reform. The Latino vote helped turn states like Nevada and Colorado blue, and while Rodriguez said he doubts Arizona is in play in this election cycle, he pointed to high-profile GOP politicians like John McCain, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio seeing “the writing on the wall” and taking much more moderate positions on immigration as representative of this shift.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney refused to say whether he would repeal the recent executive order, but Rodriguez called it a “turning point” and said he doesn’t believe Romney would overturn it if he were to become president.
Rodriguez credited the president with moving the dialogue forward and giving Latinos newfound confidence that meaningful immigration reform is possible, even if achieving it is a slow process.
“I think that a lot of people that are hearing about this have renewed hopes and sort of restored hopes that something can be done,” Rodriguez said. “And because this is happening during a time when we expect the Supreme Court to rule on Arizona v. U.S. in a way that’s going to further damage our communities, people know that this will be a good way to continue keeping families together - at least for the younger individuals that can apply for this.”
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said he also feels that the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Arizona would damage communities. He feared that the requirement for his police officers to use their time and resources to verify immigration status and arrest those here illegally will clog the system, waste taxpayer dollars and not make residents any safer from crime. Dupnik, who oversees a county directly bordering Mexico, said that his agency already detains more illegal immigrants than any other local agency, and its current procedure of handing them off to federal authorities and resuming its main civic duty is working fine.
Dupnik, speaking by telephone from his office in Tucson, insisted “law enforcement did not ask for this bill,” which he described as being “borne out of bigotry.”
According to Dupnik, the Supreme Court “did not address the most important issue. The real issue here is racial profiling.” Despite the law stating officers “may not solely consider race, color or national origin” in stopping someone, many critics raised the obvious concern that this is at best a vague restriction and does little to prevent random document checks for Latinos or other racial minorities living in or visiting Arizona. The sheriff gave them reason to remain worried.
“Law enforcement officers are taught to profile behavior, not people,” Dupnik said. “This law would coerce us to illegally profile people.”
Dupnik also mentioned the fact that SB 1070 has a provision allowing citizens to sue local law enforcement if they feel they are not enforcing federal immigration laws to the fullest extent possible. On the other hand, being overly enthusiastic in cracking down on suspected illegal immigrants leaves police open to discrimination lawsuits, such as Dupnik’s counterpart to the north, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” Dupnik said.
The Supreme Court looks to hand down its decision on SB 1070 any day now. How does the sheriff expect things to change in his state if the court rules, as expected, in favor of Arizona?
“The correct answer is, I don’t have any idea.”
Reach Staff Columnist Matt Pressberg here.