Ariz. could toughen immigration laws
PHOENIX - As America’s busiest immigrant smuggling hub, Arizona has earned the distinction as a place that’s tough on people who sneak across the border.
That reputation would harden if the Legislature and governor approve a proposal that would draw local authorities deeper into immigration enforcement and further reject the notion that immigration is the sole responsibility of the federal government.
The proposal, which has cleared the state Senate and is being considered by the House, would require police to try to determine people’s immigration status when they have reasonable suspicions that a person doesn’t have legal status.
And, if approved, Arizona would become the only state to criminalize the presence of illegal immigrants through an expansion of its trespassing law.
While the practical effect of such a law is yet unclear, immigrant rights advocates predict it would lead to racial profiling that would target thousands of Latinos who are US citizens.
And the proposal’s constitutionality is also a source of contention.
A few years ago, police chiefs in two communities in New Hampshire charged illegal immigrants with trespassing for being in the state. A local judge in 2005 dismissed the charges as an unconstitutional attempt to apply state laws to a federal issue.
But supporters of the proposal say that in addition to inadequate federal border efforts, many local police departments have turned a blind eye to illegal immigrants.
Some local politicians “don’t have the courage to stand up for their citizens,’’ said the bill’s sponsor, state Senator Russell Pearce of Mesa. The measure cleared the Senate on a 16-to-12 vote on June 15 and is being considered by the House.