Arizona Set to Pass Anti-Immigrant Legislation

In Arizona, the legislature looks set to pass a truly terrifying anti-immigration bill that would, among other thing, allow police to arrest undocumented immigrants on the charge of trespassing simply for being in the state:

The Arizona Legislature gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a proposal that would allow the police to arrest illegal immigrants on trespassing charges simply for being in the state.

The provision, which opponents and proponents call a first in the nation, is part of a wide-ranging bill whose sponsors say they hope will make life tougher for illegal immigrants.

The House bill must be reconciled with a version passed by the Senate, something that may be done within the next week or two. Both include measures to outlaw the hiring of day laborers off the street; prohibit anyone from knowingly transporting an illegal immigrant, even a relative, anywhere in the state; and compel local police to check the status of people they reasonably suspect are in the country illegally.

Immigrant advocates call the bill some of the harshest legislation they have seen in a state where battles over immigration are particularly sharp edged.

Allow me to repeat that, because it’s important. The bill would, among other things, force police to check the status of people they “reasonably suspect” are undocumented.

Tell me, who exactly do you think the people police might “reasonably suspect” of being undocumented might be? Because as a white woman, I don’t think that in the event of this bill passing, I’d exactly have to fear being stopped. What this bill would essentially do is not only legalize but require racial profiling and harassment against Latin@s.

Truthdig has more on the bill. It originally passed the Senate back in February — Google searches indicate the issue was being discussed for a couple months prior to now, though it only recently hit my radar — and the most recent news seems to be that an amended version has passed committee in the House. Though the amended version changes the language about “trespassing,” some immigrants rights advocates worry that the new language is even worse. Not only does the rewording potentially criminalize legal residents who fail to carry their documentation, it also “eliminates the requirement that an individual must be in the midst of committing another crime in order to also be charged with transporting, concealing or harboring an illegal immigrant” and contains no exception for humanitarian efforts.

I’m unsure what kind of effect voter action may have at this stage in the game. The ACLU has called the bill unconstitutional, and the best bet may be a legal challenge. Nevertheless, if my searching has failed and you have action alerts or information about organizations that are combating the bill, please leave the information in the comments and I’ll update the post.

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21 Responses to Arizona Set to Pass Anti-Immigrant Legislation

  1. Alison says:

    Good lord. This is so appalling. The level of racism and xenophobia here honestly boggles my mind. I mean, I’m not naive…but I just can’t comprehend this way of thinking.

    And the concept of “trespassing”, ugh…that word alone really puts this in the proper light – like, how dare these non-white people TRESPASS on “our” land. Sickening that people actually think that way.

  2. libdevil says:

    They want immigrants to die. Simple as that. They can’t call the cops if they’re raped. They can’t catch a ride to the hospital if they’re beaten. It’ll be the perfect libertarian paradise, and yet this is something that’s being inflicted on those who have been cast as ‘others,’ rather than actively sought out and embraced by the rugged individualist cult. Telling.

    • Cara says:

      MOD NOTE

      Having already gotten a couple of comments along these lines, let me be clear:

      The comment section on Feministe is not a place for you to rant against the “illegals.”

      It is also not a place where you get to argue that anti-immigrant sentiment is not driven by racism. You’re more than welcome to think that. But for conversation here, it’s a non-starter just as much as the argument that rape apologism or anti-choice sentiment isn’t driven by misogyny. If you think rape apologism has nothing to do with misogyny, good for you — go find an MRA blog. (Though if you think it’s not only based in misogyny but also driven by other forms of prejudice and oppression, please stick around and talk!) And if you think that anti-immigrant sentiment has nothing to do with racism, same deal. There are lots of people who will approve your comments and engage you in that debate, but they’re not here.

      • Jill says:

        The comment section on Feministe is not a place for you to rant against the “illegals.”

        Amazing that people need to be told this. Now just sit back and wait for us to start getting emails about how we’re censoring people and we’re so right why don’t we allow dissenting views huh?

  3. Holy! says:

    Xenophobia and anti immigrant sentiment always runs high during times of economic dislocation. This situation is probably being exacerbated by the Mexican drug wars that are spilling over the border into Arizona. My guess is the whole situation will only get worse. Especially since we have millions of immigrants right here (some legal, some not) that we can’t integrate into the economy. Unlike my great grandparent’s generation, who found manufacturing work to be a bridge out of poverty, the new generation of immigrants will find no such upward mobility.

  4. becky says:

    it’s unbelievable that there’ll be a legal foundation for harassing people of color and add to the discrimination POC face when dealing with authorities. and the “trespassing”-“argument” sickens me, too.

    designing countries as fortresses is basically a slightly more modern version of feudalism, obviously with a racist basis. a tiny portion of humankind decides, in the worst case, over life and death, but certainly about the living conditions of billions of others and passes that privilege onto their children.

    there have been very interesting comments about this by the political scientists kymlicka and carens who basically argue that denying people to permanently enter countries other than the ones they were accidentally born in, led to a modern day “aristocracy” that can only be inherited, not achieved by any other means, and is viciously defended by the prevelant discourses and the resulting legislation, acts and alleged public opinion.

    to be honest, i am very tired of hearing about “those millions and billions” of immigrants “flooding” the country. basically, it’s the same bullshit in europe as in the us. high-skilled immigrants allegedly “steal” “your” jobs, and if they don’t “steal” “your” jobs, they obviously are poorly qualified and then allegedly lie heavy on the social security systems, and if they don’t get any benefits either, then they’re just overpopulating the country by having too many children, and if they don’t have any children… and so on and so forth. same old, same old, and always a very thin-layered cover-up for blunt racism and xenophobia.

    @ holy: i do not know where you get the notion that there is not a chance for upward mobility for immigrants and they “cannot” be “integrated” into the economy. in europe, immigrants are actively prevented from “integrating” into the economic system by restricting them from work (since the common assumption is they’ll be “shipped back” any minute anyways). high-skilled or low-skilled immigrant workers both face racism looking for jobs, and i protest the assumption that most of the immigrating people are low-skilled anyway and just looking for a hand-out. there are plenty people in rich western countries who do the same and live quite comfortably in comparison to the rest of the world simply because of their assumed “birthright”. closing the borders and pretending that’s the “natural” state of the world (when nation states are actually one of the youngest concepts humanity has come up with, and a particularly bad one, i might add…), for whatever reason politicians and “citizens” come up with, has only the effect of violently fighting for stolen privileges.

  5. Holy! says:

    “i do not know where you get the notion that there is not a chance for upward mobility for immigrants and they “cannot” be “integrated” into the economy.”

    My point was that an restructuring has taken place that greatly limits upward mobility in this country. Many jobs have been eliminated and they are not coming back. Right now there is one job for every six applicants. Economists are shrugging there shoulders and talking about permanently high unemployment. That has huge consequences for low skilled workers–and even skilled workers. the majority of so called “illegal” immigrants are low skilled and this will make it far more difficult for them to make it to the middle class. That’s the exact opposite of what happened with twentieth century immigrants; they could rely on a robust and growing manufacturing sector–along with unions that allowed for ‘living wages.’ The long decline of manufacturing has changed all that.

    As of 2007, before the recession, we had 40 million people living below the poverty line. You know that number has grown since then. We need to add about 580,000 jobs a month to return to pre recession levels. Yet the powers that be cannot even put together a decent jobs bill.

  6. becky says:

    My point was that an restructuring has taken place that greatly limits upward mobility in this country.

    not to be a buzzkill, but upward mobility is pretty much an urban myth, at least for the majority of people of lower classes, and at least since the mid-20th century, and so is the reputation of manufacturing as a job-wonder for immigrants. furthermore: the poverty line is a crucial topic regarding immigration and racist discrimination, e.g. towards USian people of colour who are disproportionately endangered by poverty.

    …but i am afraid it is getting rather late here on the other side of the pond, so i will respond more fully and elaborate what i mean tomorrow, if that’s alright.

  7. Holy! says:

    Unions and manufacturing provided a direct route out of poverty for countless millions of European immigrants during the mid and latter 20th century. It’s a seldom argued factor of US labor history. Unionizied manufacturing paid living wages. The service sector usually does not. Here’s some books that elaborate on the subject of manufacturing and unions in US history

    “Striking Steel” by Jack Metzger
    “State of the Union” by Nelson Lichtenstein
    “Beyond the Ruins” by Jefferson Cowie, editor
    “Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the seventies” by Judith Stein
    “Origins of the Urban Crisis” by Thomas Sugrue

  8. bellacoker says:

    The whole idea of empowering the police to stop people and ask them for documentation terrifies me. Assuming that people, based on any metric, do not have the right to be in the place they are is the absolute antithesis of a free society.

  9. KJ says:

    Dear lord, Arizona again. I am contacting my state representative. We are not all bigots here, but I must confess that we have a good percentage of them. Some of it, IMHO, is the fact that Arizona has one of the worst educational systems in the state. We just stopped paying for all-day kindergarten for instance. The state just doesn’t seem to care that the school are churning out a mass of people who have never been taught to think critically and have poor reading and writing skills. Many well-educated parents have taken their kids out of public schools and are either homeschooling them or sending them to charter/private schools. The situation isn’t good. A bill like this will just empower the bigots to do more harm. We already have Sheriff Joe- this bill would allow every policeman and deputy across the state to act like him.

  10. KJ says:

    Educational systems in country I mean- sorry, tired!

  11. Marja E says:


    I think you mean the perfect authoritarian paradise: further empowering the police state, while further limiting freedom of travel and association. Opposition to borders is basic to libertarianism, and has been since the 19th century.

  12. Lisa says:

    By all that is holy I hope they are able to stop this bill with some kind of anti-discrimination suit. I know police already stop people of color way more often than whites, but enacting a law that would “compel” them to do so, it just makes me sick.

    “they hope [the bill] will make life tougher for illegal immigrants”

    Because life isn’t hard enough for undocumented people in this country… Let’s see, with out documentation you can’t: get a driver’s license, fly on a plane, receive federal financial aid, or get a decent job (usually). Just to name a few of the more obvious ones.

  13. William says:

    Allow me to repeat that, because it’s important. The bill would, among other things, force police to check the status of people they “reasonably suspect” are undocumented.

    Two words: Joe Arpaio.

    The constant fucking equivocation and deference that police get in our society is disgusting. No one is forcing the police, in Arizona no less, to do anything. Police do things like this all the time anyway. They are not friendly officers who really want to make their communities better but are sadly bound by bad laws to do bad things. They are people who have volunteered to carry a gun and inflict the will of the majority on the minority. They are small authoritarians in the business of bullying people. They are not heros who prevent crime but clerks who, if you’re lucky, might fill out paperwork after you’ve already been victimized. In most urban areas they are people who advance in their careers based upon the number of brown kids they send to prison to be raped for the crime of using drugs. Perhaps some small number of police are good people, but as an institution they are the blunt force of an authoritarian impulse. The police in Arizona are not friends of immigrants suddenly thrust into a difficult situation by a bad law.

  14. Sailorman says:

    I do not think the enforcement aspect can hold up in court. For example, when you say

    Not only does the rewording potentially criminalize legal residents who fail to carry their documentation,

    That is unconstitutional.

    Police need some sort of reasonable suspicion to stop you in the first place and demand your ID. And they need probable cause to arrest you.

    There’s no way to support reasonable suspicion here, because plenty of people of all sorts are citizens (whether born or naturalized) or are here with temporary or permanent approval. You can’t tell on outwards characteristics whether someone is legal or not, so you can’t have no reason to suspect that they’re not legal based only on their characteristics.

    Even if you got past the reasonable suspicion thing somehow, you can’t compel them to answer your questions. And if they simply lie and say they’re a citizen, you can’t arrest them just because you think they’re lying.

    So it’s concerning as a political move, but unlikely to have much effect in real life. The ACLU will smack it down in a hurry.

    Holy and Becky: I don’t think that you can just analyze “immigrant” sentiment and attitudes without distinguishing between legal and illegal immigrants, and without distinguishing between legal immigrants based on citizenship. When people refer to “those millions and billions” of immigrants “flooding” the country, for example, they are generally referring to illegal immigrants. OTOH, when people refer to the (comparatively few in number) people who are taking high tech jobs, they are invariably referring to legal immigrants working on H1-B visas. And both categories of complainers would generally exclude those legal immigrants who have become U.S. citizens.

  15. Slug says:

    @Sailorman – sure it is probably unconstitutional. That doesn’t seem to phase the AZ legislature, but it also sends a really bad message to local law enforcement. A law on the books telling police to ask for documentation on the street will have a significant effect long before it gets lifted after several years of litigation.
    Furthermore, if you are undocumented, you don’t have a right to stay in this country, regardless of whether your apprehension was lawful or whether the policeman profiled you, hurled racial epithets, and dragged you off to Sheriff Arpaio without a shred of suspicion of your status. This is just one of the ways that immigrants have fewer rights than criminal defendants.

  16. Sailorman says:

    Slug 4.7.2010 at 2:50 pm
    …Furthermore, if you are undocumented, you don’t have a right to stay in this country, regardless of whether your apprehension was lawful or whether the policeman profiled you, hurled racial epithets, and dragged you off to Sheriff Arpaio without a shred of suspicion of your status. This is just one of the ways that immigrants have fewer rights than criminal defendants.

    Illegal immigrants do have the same criminal defenses as anyone else. And they can bring lawsuits as well. I’ve represented illegal immigrants in suits for wages, for example.

    Once you’re a convicted criminal defendant then the government does tend to “take notice” of you, and if you’re not supposed to be in the U.S. then you will get deported. But trust me when I say that people get charged all the time and NOT deported.

    So: Say that a cop makes an unjustified warrantless arrest of an illegal immigrant and in the process finds some coke. The defendant can raise due process in the defense to the coke, and can maybe get that thrown out. They may (or may not) be able to deal with it at trial.

    It’s true that illegal immigrants have fewer rights, but the main right difference is the “is it legal to stay in the country” issue, not the “do I lose all my other constitutional rights”

  17. Sarah says:

    I immigrated to the United States after 2001, and after reading all the literature USCIS gave me when I finally got here, I believed that this type of enforcement was already routine. For example, this morning when I walked my daughter to preschool, I didn’t take my wallet with me, which is a violation because I am required by law to have my alien resident card on my person at all times. If I were stopped and I failed to produce this ID, I could be detained and placed in USCIS custody. And if a police officer stops me when I do have my ID with me, my driver’s licence identifies me as an immigrant who must be able to produce the proper identification (in fact, I had to establish my immigration status with the DPS before I was even allowed to renew my driver’s licence). I understand that’s a long way from requiring an officer to guess at my immigration status and interrogate me for walking down the street, and that because I am white an officer wouldn’t ask for my documents unless I spoke to him (and revealed my accent), but let’s be clear that this country is not friendly to immigrants, legal or otherwise. I don’t see this new law as a shocking new development, but rather a hardening into law of a trend that has been developing for nine years.

    • Cara says:

      Hey Sarah. My husband immigrated to the U.S. in 2005, so I definitely know that those are the rules. You’re absolutely right that you’re supposed to carry the green card with you at all times and produce it upon request, and that you’re threatened with a lot if you don’t. My husband was always sure to carry his green card, too, and wouldn’t even go down the road without it.

      The difference, according to those quoted in the article — and I am going of of what they’re saying, because they work with the rules in practice rather than just read them — is that while those are the rules, they are very rarely enforced. What they’re arguing is that with this new law, they could start being enforced, and seeing as how the rule is infinitely absurd and begin with, that would of course be a bad and unfair thing.

  18. Ens says:

    Marja E:

    It’s one of those cases where one type of person who calls themselves libertarian has become more common than another type of person who calls themselves the same thing. Same thing happened to the swastika.

    Check out a tech blog any time, and you’ll see a bunch of self-professed libertarians say simply awful things about immigrants (often referred to as Indians regardless of national origin) and wax poetic about how it isn’t fair or “free market” to allow anybody at all through the borders. But things that happened before they were born, like most or all of their recent ancestors immigrating, don’t count. And to be fair, a bunch of others calling them on this, but they’re all accused of being immigrants (probably illegal, probably Indian) themselves, so clearly their opinions don’t count. At the risk of drifting off topic, you’ll see these same people mention their low six figure salaries after 2 years experience and with no debt living in areas with an average cost of living arguing that they hope one day to crawl out of poverty into the lower middle-class and it’s the fault of immigrants that they’re in such dire financial straits.

    I have an interesting privilege in this area: I’m a white Canadian, so I “pass” as American often enough for people to mention to me without realizing it just what they think about “H1Bs”, which they use to refer to people rather than visa statuses — most people aren’t such dicks, but there’s still a lot of them and boy are they loud. They make even me think of granting their wish and leaving and I’m pretty sure I escape most of the shit ’cause I look and mostly-sound the same.

    So. I guess shan’t be going to Arizona anytime soon, papers or none. Not that I had any plans.

    A few months back, I nearly threw up a kidney when some cops randomly stopped me while I was walking to the 7-11 at maybe 2 AM (I have a minor sleeping disorder), and apparently they were looking for a night prowler that was breaking into cars and stealing stuff, so they asked for my driver’s license to call my information into who-knows-who, and then asked for my I-94 and I didn’t have it on me. They postured and lectured intimidatingly, and I’m pretty sure one of them was testing me because otherwise his weird list of trivia questions are just befuddling, but they let me go after calling it in and I didn’t press on why. This is in a state that I am assured is relatively liberal-leaning.

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