Friday, April 23, 2010

Immigration Law

I have always wanted to live in a warmer place. It appears I will be able to eliminate Arizona as a possible choice, thanks to the Bill currently before Governor Jan Brewer for her signature; which if not signed by tomorrow by default will become the law in Arizona.

I know illegal immigration is a sensitive subject, but I wanted to share my thoughts on the matter. What is alarming to me is the authority this Bill grants law enforcement to arrest and detain. If an officer has a reasonable suspicion, the lowest criminal standard in our criminal justice system, an individual is illegally in the country they can demand the individual produce documentation verifying their immigration status. If no information is provided or if the information cannot be verified with the federal government, the individual can, and more likely than not, will be arrested.

Now, I'm fully aware, a consequence of being married to a prosecutor, that detaining somebody based upon reasonable suspicion is not a new concept. However, we have always had the safeguard that prior to contacting us law enforcement have a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. How on Earth can law enforcement form that reasonable suspicion? What does an illegal immigrant look like, what do they normally wear, do they typically drive certain cars, do they all engage in the same behavior, or do they live in the same places? The answer to those questions is obviously no. That leaves the very likely possibility that law enforcement will base their decision on whether the person is Hispanic or African or Asian or does the person speak no or very limited English, or even possibly does the person have an accent.

For those of you who know me, I meet both of those criteria. I am Hispanic and, although I worked very hard to eliminate it, I still have a Latina accent when I speak English. If I am driving down the road minding my own business I could very quickly find myself being confronted by a law enforcement officer who is demanding to see proof I am here legally.

I am a naturalized citizen of this Country and am proud of my citizenship, but I do not, nor is there any requirement that I do so, carry my naturalization papers with me. In this scenario I would be arrested and detained in the local jail until somebody provided adequate proof of my lawful status. If Carl was not easily available my kids would be placed with the Department of Health and Human Services and my car would be towed. Is it justified, that I, a United States Citizen, should be subjected to this merely because I don't speak perfect English or don't have the right skin color? That is what is wrong with this bill.

I do not condone illegal immigration and I commend Arizona for at least trying to do something to fix the problem. I do not believe fear is the answer. That is what I believe this Bill will instigate in people, to hate and fear those who have a different skin color or who don’t speak English correctly.