Suspension of immigration law still poses a threat
Though its most controversial parts have been suspended pending a court battle, Arizona's anti-illegal immigration law still could lead to abuses against migrants and people of Hispanic origin, says a Tucson-based human rights organization fighting the legislation.
At a community forum in Yuma this week, Border Action Network Policy Director Jaime Farrant noted that U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton's ruling last month let stand some provisions of Senate Bill 1070, which have since taken effect.
“There are more sections of the law that are in effect than those that were suspended, so the problem doesn't stop there,” he told a crowd of about 100.
The Mexican Consul in Yuma organized the forum to explain the possible impacts of those provisions in the law that Bolton allowed to stand.
In her ruling July 28, Bolton blocked a provision that would require police officers to make reasonable attempts to check the immigration status of those they stop. Opponents of the law feared that part of SB 1070 would lead to racial profiling.
Other sections on hold include one that forbids police from releasing anyone they have arrested until that person's immigration status is determined, and a requirement that non-citizens carry documentation.
Gov. Jan Brewer plans to appeal Bolton's ruling, and observers predict the legal battle will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Farrant, an attorney by profession, said the Border Action Network has started up a program to receive and investigate complaints from people who believe they have been racially profiled or otherwise abused by law enforcement agencies carrying out portions of the law.
Border Action Network, formed in 1999, combines grassroots community organizing, leadership development, litigation and policy advocacy to ensure the rights of immigrant and border communities in Arizona, according to its website. Known by its acronym BAN, the organization has signed on as a plaintiff in one of seven lawsuits filed against SB 1070.
While Bolton's ruling prevents police officers from checking the immigration status of people they stop, Farrant said, officers can make the checks if those persons are arrested as suspects in a crime.
Therefore, he added, it's essential that officers stay within the law and adhere to individual rights. “Unfortunately, the police are being given the excuse to ask about immigration status.”
While the law states that racial profiling is prohibited, “it is occurring,” he said. “We have many reported cases of police who enforced 1070 before it was approved. Wherever we find patterns of abuse, we are going to denounce them. We want to show the world what some bad apples among Arizona police are doing.”
Irasema Covarrubias, a San Luis, Ariz., resident who attended the forum, said that despite being an American citizen, the law “has me terrified.” She asked what people who are subject to deportation should do to minimize the effects of such an event on their families.
Julissa Villa, a coordinator for BAN, said the organization has advisors who have traveling around the state to prepare communities for the implementation of 1070.
Apart from that, the organization has also launched a voter registration campaign.
“These laws are being passed because we, the Latinos, don't go out and vote,” Villa said.
While calling the partial suspension of SB 1070 a positive development, Mexico's Consul in Yuma Miguel Escobar said critics of the law should not claim victory because, “We can't lose sight of the fact it is a temporary suspension,” one that could be lifted depending on the outcome over the looming court battle.
He said one positive impact of SB 1070 was to force the nation to renew the debate over the theme of immigration reform.
Farrant said the motives of supporters of the law “is to create a state so inhospitable that people self-deport, they want the conditions for undocumented people to be so bad that they go away on their own.”