Making sense out of history
Looking at the scenario arising from the Arizona immigration law SB1070, I felt like going back to check some data.
Two decades ago, when Arizona voters rejected a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the NFL yanked the Super Bowl from suburban Phoenix. The boycott marked a major turning point in the journey to nationwide acceptance of the King holiday.
In 2006 also, Hazleton, PA., gained national attention as the mayor and council members passed the ‘Illegal Immigration Relief Act’, an ordinance geared to discouraging hiring or renting to illegal immigrants. Subsequently, leaders from other communities across the United States requested information on this proposal for use in their own municipalities. According to their own records about half of the Hispanic population in Hazeltown left, even though the local Chamber of Commerce claimed that the influx of both legal and undocumented immigrants had revitalized the dying coal town.
On July 26, 2007 federal judge, James Munley, struck down Hazleton’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act as an unconstitutional ordinance pre-empted by federal law. Nevertheless since then the local economy has not recuperated.
Currently the Arizona law, set to take effect July 29, makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally and directs local police to question individuals about their immigration status and demand documentation if they suspect a person is in the country illegally.
Critics say the law encourages racial profiling and is unconstitutional and several lawsuits seeking to block its implementation are pending in federal court. Several cities have urged boycotts against Arizona businesses to protest the law.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the National Immigration Law Center are filing an injunction to stop implementation of SB 1070. The city councils of Tucson and Flagstaff have both passed resolutions to sue the state of Arizona to block SB1070, and the Pima County Sheriff’s Department has pledged not to comply with SB1070. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the possibility of a lawsuit by the Department of Justice.
Individuals and organizations representing a wide range of political views across Arizona and nationally have voiced opposition to this law. State and national human, civil, and immigrant rights organizations are launching protests throughout the U.S. and many individuals throughout the U.S. are engaged in opposing this law.
The concerted actions of these individuals and community groups are playing out on the stage of public opinion and through the courts. It is possible that these legal actions along with the local, national, and international opposition may very well block SB1070 altogether.
In Indiana, Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, said that he will introduce some type of immigration legislation in Indiana if Congress and the Obama administration do not act soon on illegal immigration. Some critics of Delph’s previous immigration proposals have said that Indiana’s economy needs both legal and undocumented immigrant workers to thrive. Tony Barreda, chairman of the East Chicago-based Community Coalition for Immigrants, told The Times of Munster that protests would come to Indiana if the state enacted an Arizona-type proposal.
After a hasty move to follow the Arizona law, will Indiana and other states have to comply with what the federal laws order and face economic desolation caused by seeking independent state answers to a national issue?
Nevertheless, one good thing can be said about the Arizona law, it has caused a conversation that otherwise would have remained largely undiscussed and unsolved.
According to estimates, Arizona’s 460,000 undocumented immigrants are almost all Latinos. Yet Arizona also has 2 million Latinos who are U.S. citizens, about 30 percent of the state’s population.
Latinos also make up almost 30 percent of pro baseball players. In the Arizona conversation, they too are speaking up: They want the law changed. Their All-Star Game next year is scheduled for Phoenix. Meetings, conventions, and games are changing their gathering place.
Is Arizona ready for that change and what about Indiana and other states?
Let’s keep an open dialogue looking for solutions that may be best for all involved.
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