April 22, 2010

Arizona's Turn for the Worse

Lawmakers in Arizona are trying to push through a new bill that is fueling some serious protests. From the Chicago Tribune:
Under the Arizona bill, federal immigration violations would become state crimes as well, often with higher penalties. Local and state police who have a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is in the country illegally would be required — not authorized, required — to determine that person's immigration status and arrest those without documents. Even legal immigrants would be subject to arrest if they aren't carrying their papers. And drivers who give undocumented immigrants a ride could have their cars impounded.
A "reasonable suspicion," leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and opens up a floodgate for a slew of conflicts. Not to mention civil lawsuits. From AZCentral.com:
Newly appointed interim Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley on Thursday asked Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the immigration bill sent to her by Arizona lawmakers. An interfaith coalition of religious leaders, too, expressed concerns about the legislation in a statement and encouraged her to reject it.
In protest, more than 1,000 school kids walked out of class near the Arizona Capitol:
More than a thousand students walked out of several Valley high schools Thursday to protest Arizona's controversial immigration enforcement bill.

The protest was organized via Twitter and Facebook, according to students who left their campuses and headed for the state Capitol.

The move came despite loudspeaker warnings from their principal to stay in class.
Here is a little more on the matter from Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman:
Arizona legislators are fed up with being terrorized by illegal immigrants, and they have passed a law to get tough. Under the measure, passed this week and sent to the governor, police would have to stop and question anyone they suspect of being in this country without legal authorization.

The bill passed after the fatal shooting of Robert Krentz, a 58-year-old rancher whose killer apparently entered illegally from Mexico. Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu says police are also under siege: "We've had numerous officers that have been killed by illegal immigrants in Arizona."

Even Sen. John McCain, once a supporter of immigration reform, has called for the immediate placement of 3,000 National Guard soldiers along the border.

It's no surprise that Arizonans resent the recent influx of unauthorized foreigners, some of them criminals. But there is less here than meets the eye.

The state has an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants. But contrary to myth, they have not brought an epidemic of murder and mayhem with them. Surprise of surprises, the state has gotten safer.

Over the last decade, the violent crime rate has dropped by 19 percent, while property crime is down by 20 percent. Crime has also declined in the rest of the country, but not as fast as in Arizona.

More about this soon.

UPDATE: For more links and information, look here.

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