News

Arizona Deeply Divided Over Immigration Law Before Supreme Court

Greg Flakus

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments over Arizona's controversial state immigration enforcement law. The government maintains that immigration is a federal matter and that states cannot have their own separate laws, whereas defenders of the state law say it was made necessary by the federal government's failure to secure the border with Mexico. The issue has deeply divided the state's citizens.

Every morning, around a dozen men gather in a Phoenix parking lot, hoping local residents will hire them for day jobs in landscaping or construction.

After state law SB1070 was passed two years ago, thousands of illegal immigrants left Arizona, fearing local police would now be able to detain them.

But these men from Mexico say they are not concerned, that they have to work in order to live and they do not want to leave.

Two years ago, there were massive protests on the streets of Phoenix and many Hispanics said the law would allow police to target anyone who looked Mexican,  including legal residents and citizens.

A federal court blocked that part of the law, but the state appealed, and now the nation's highest court will consider whether it is constitutional.

One of the attorneys who helped bring the case against the law is Daniel Ortega, Jr.. “I think what you have here is the potential for people of certain color of skin or people of certain hair or certain accents being subject to greater scrutiny," he said.

But aside from the issue of racial profiling, Ortega says immigration is a federal matter. “When you allow states to enact their own laws, you will have - first of all - a patchwork of many laws, none of which are uniform," he said.

But SB1070's main sponsor, former Arizona state senator Russell Pearce, disagrees. “States have inherent constitutional police powers; they have never been preempted from enforcing these laws. The only impediment to enforcing these laws is political," he said.

Pearce also had personal reasons for wanting this law. In 2004, his son Sean, a deputy sheriff, was wounded in a gun battle with a criminal who was in the country illegally. “Who I am mad at, who I am really upset with, is my government. That should not have happened," he said.

Although some Arizona law enforcers spoke out against SB1070, the law was strongly backed by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. “We enforce gun laws, we enforce drug laws, we enforce bank robbery laws, so why should this be any different," he said.

Civil Rights activists claim that Arpaio already uses racial profiling, something he denies. He says the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs over the border is the real problem.

On the streets of Phoenix, there are mixed opinions about the law and the man generally known here as Sheriff Joe. “The federal government was supposed to be taking care of this, but they have not been, so now the state has to step in," said one woman.

“I come from Los Angeles, California where the crime rate is, whew, out of control, so I think the Phoenix crime rate is pretty good right now, thanks to Sheriff Joe," said one man.

“Arizona is a very racist state, let's be honest, and I feel they should not be able to have their own law," said a woman with an opposing view.

Although Russell Pearce was removed from office in a recall election last year, he feels vindicated by what other states are now doing. “Thirty-four states are writing legislation modeled after SB1070. Now, many of them are on hold, waiting for the Supreme Court, but Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina have passed such legislation," he said.

Pearce thinks the Supreme Court will uphold the law, but opponent Daniel Ortega says that would anger Hispanics here. “If the court decides it will lift the injunction on SB1070 and allow it to be implemented, there will be a very large reaction from the Latino community," he said.

The immigration issue has left this state deeply divided, so no matter how the Supreme Court ultimately rules, many people will be angry and disappointed.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs