Both Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid released statements on the new immigration law signed yesterday by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, and both of them use it as a tool to spur action on comprehensive reform in Congress. Reid said that the law “provides another important example of why we need to fix our broken system.” Pelosi concurred, adding that “Our nation has been sustained and strengthened by immigrants from generation to generation and that is why today’s action in Arizona is misguided and irresponsible. Families have come to the United States hoping for a better life and striving for a brighter future. We must do everything in our power to build on that tradition by passing comprehensive immigration reform and ensuring our nation’s cherished civil rights.” Reid told the coalition working on an immigration bill that they have three weeks to reach a deal or he’ll bring his own bill to the floor. He clearly wants to strike while the ink is fresh on SB1070.
But not everyone is so concerned with turning the Arizona law to political advantage, however much that advantage would actually aid those being persecuted. Some are taking the fight directly to Arizona. Students have been massing outside the Arizona Statehouse for five days in protest of the measure. Presente.org is trying to organize 1 million people in opposition. And Raul Grijalva, who has faced death threats for saying that Americans should boycott Arizona after passage of this law, called on the President to “limit [federal] cooperation with Arizona officials in their enforcement of SB 1070.”
“SB 1070 would exacerbate the problem of racial profiling . . . and would continue to compromise the civil rights of citizens, legal residents, tourists and foreign visitors,” the letter says.
The letter also asks Obama to cut off any further potential Memorandums of Understanding between the Department of Homeland Security and state law enforcement officials regarding immigration enforcement. Such agreements, the letter says, “have been subject to serious concerns as local law enforcement agencies have used the new powers to target communities of color, including a disproportionate number of Latinos for arrest.”
“This law will put every policeman in the state on notice that their main duty from now on is to question Hispanics about their citizenship,” Grijalva said. “This is a discriminatory policy that cannot be enforced without committing grave breaches of due process and equal protection. The law will not withstand legal scrutiny, and I call on the president immediately to reject it in the strongest possible terms.”
The legal question is a legitimate one. Even Mike Huckabee said that the law will open up Arizona to a “plethora” of civil rights lawsuits. With racial profiling illegal, practically the only way to administer SB1070 would be to harass white people for their papers as well, a “careful what you wish for” moment if there ever was one.
I mentioned the other day the backlash against then-Arizona Governor Evan Mecham for canceling the Martin Luther King holiday for state employees. I remember Public Enemy’s “By the Time I Get To Arizona” and all the boycotts. Eventually Mecham gave up, created a non-paid holiday, and within a year was impeached and under felony indictment. We’ve been here before in Arizona. And this could end the same way.