Ignoring “Illegal Employers”: Arizona’s Police-State Legislation

Now we have a state government, a Republican-led state government, in Arizona taking on federal responsibilities for immigration control. The Arizona governor signed SB 1070, the first state law making undocumented immigrants criminals.

Even though the governor claims this law will not result in racial profiling, which it certainly will (given past research evidence on policing, see here and here), she herself issued an executive order requiring police to train to avoid racial profiling in their street-level discretionary actions as they operate on a “reasonable suspicion” in dealing with brown-skinned Arizonans. The striking thing is that mainstream media have not asked, again and again, why such police training should be at all necessary unless the Arizona police already do a lot of racial profiling.

New America Media’s Valeria Fernández has a good summary of key issues in this police-state type legislation:

SB 1070, also known as the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhood Act,” would allow police officers to arrest a person based on “reasonable suspicion ” that he or she is an undocumented immigrant. Police departments could face lawsuits by individuals who believe they are not enforcing the law. … SB 1070 would also impose penalties for transporting or harboring an undocumented immigrant, which could include family members.

So family members get put in jail too? Among other issues Fernández notes the issue of the law’s constitutionality:

Several legal challenges to keep the legislation from taking effect are in the works by the Mexican American Legal and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). “Arizona would have the same place in history as South Africa,” said Salvador Reza, organizer for the PUENTE movement, which advocates for human rights, comparing the new law to apartheid.

Actions often have unintended consequences, and one may be the growth of both pro-immigration rallies and legislation:

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Illinois, is expected to hold a rally in Arizona on Sunday. “We hope President Obama can join us at the rally to announce swift action the federal government will take to protect the civil rights of its residents,” said Pablo Alvarado, the executive director of NDLON. President Obama criticized the Arizona bill earlier today, saying it threatens to “undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.” . . . Opponents of the bill are holding ongoing protests and planning economic boycotts of the state convention center.

Numerous state and local Arizona business leaders, perhaps not unexpectedly, are often opposed to the new law as “damaging the he Arizona economy.” Well, U.S. employers inside and outside Arizona are the ones who, in effect, put up the signs at the border saying “jobs to be filled,” which are indeed filled by the hundreds of thousands in Arizona alone by undocumented immigrants. This is indeed the main issue.

One critical part of the “immigration debates” is just how powerful the conservative framing of these issues is. Conservatives frame it as “illegal immigrants” or “illegal aliens,” while even liberals are focusing on “undocumented immigrants” and “immigration problems.” This is yet another example of how we get trapped in deep unreflective frames.

How about reframing the entire debate as about “lawless employers,” “illegal employers,” and “illegal employment”? Mostly white employers are certainly at the center of this national “problem.”

If you want to protest the Arizona profiling law, one way is this petition here.