News / USA

Communities Consider Following Arizona's Lead on Immigration

Seattle Police arrest a protester for obstructing traffic during a rally to demand comprehensive immigration reform, 23 June 2010
Seattle Police arrest a protester for obstructing traffic during a rally to demand comprehensive immigration reform, 23 June 2010

Multimedia

Audio
Tom Banse

A tough immigration enforcement law scheduled to take effect in Arizona at the end of July is touching off debate and controversy far beyond the southwestern state. As a consequence, immigration reform is moving higher on the list of issues Americans say they want their politicians to address.

The Arizona law requires immigrants to carry their registration documents at all times. It also directs local police to question people they suspect are in the country illegally… a job usually done by federal law enforcement.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll found a majority of Americans – 58 percent – support the controversial course of action Arizona is taking. And roughly half the respondents in another national poll said they want their state to copy its get tough approach.

A proposal for a tougher stand

Standing room only in a Woodland City Council meeting
Standing room only in a Woodland City Council meeting

Woodland, Washington is a surprisingly diverse American small town. Third generation berry farmers live near people who commute to work in distant Portland, Oregon, who in turn live near under-employed construction and mill workers. Woodland also has a growing Hispanic population.

The mix verged on combustible at an overflowing City Council meeting recently, as townspeople commented on a resolution to endorse Arizona's immigration crackdown and to urge the Washington State Legislature to follow suit.

One woman told council members, "The law opens the door to the indiscriminate use of racial profiling against individuals that look or sound foreign."

"If you came to this country illegally, you started off on the wrong foot," another resident said. "You need to go back home, do the paperwork and come back the right way."

A woman took the microphone to complain, "A lot of these people who are coming in illegally, they're getting medical coupons. They're getting food stamps... They're getting all kinds of things that are provided through our tax system. It has to stop! It has to stop somewhere!"

A Woodland retiree agreed illegal immigration is out of hand, but said local Hispanic families are good people. "We're not a border town," she said. "That's the way I feel. Number one, we're not a border town. That's not our business."

Putting a stop to illegal immigration from the bottom up

But City council member Benjamin Fredericks says it is Woodland's business. He introduced the controversial resolution, pointing out, "It obviously isn't working from the top down. The federal government is ignoring current law. That's why I believe Arizona has the right to pass their own laws." He sees Arizona's action and his proposal as part of an effort to start reform from the bottom up, and said he'd like to see the Washington state legislature take up the issue.

Juan Barela is a counselor and human rights activist in Woodland. He says Arizona's immigration controversy has awakened the nation's Latino communities. "Now we are galvanized, united. We are strong and we're getting the vote."

In the end, the Woodland city council voted down the resolution that would have urged the legislature to copy Arizona's tough enforcement approach.

City councils in Seattle, Washington, and Los Angeles, California, have passed boycotts of Arizona travel and business contracts to show their disapproval of the new law. Most recently, the debate surfaced in Fremont, Nebraska where voters approved a city law against hiring or renting to illegal immigrants.

Public unease about immigration

Portland, Oregon-based opinion pollster Adam Davis says all of the controversy is moving immigration higher on the list of issues people want addressed. "When you ask about the biggest problem facing the nation," he notes, "just recently there has been a real surge in the number of people that mention immigration. In the West particularly, it jumped from 2 to 16 percent in the Western states, saying that it the biggest problem facing the nation."

Davis theorizes the support for stronger immigration enforcement reflects tough times. "They feel these people are taking jobs away from legal residents. In tough economic times, this is something that really concerns a lot of people. And it is not just jobs. There is also a feeling that resources are limited, that there isn't the money out there to provide government services to these people."

Craig Keller hopes to tap that public unease. Keller directs a citizen initiative campaign in Washington State. His proposal would require all employers to check the immigration status of new hires through the government's e-verify service. Recipients of public benefits would also have to be validated.

"It's very ironic that there is huge public demand for a law like this. But the 'representatives'," he says with a bit of a sneer, "that have been selected to go to Olympia are not representing the people. That's why this is a perfect example of why the citizens' initiative process is required." His campaign needs to gather a quarter-million voter signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration and some Arizona city governments hope to convince a judge to stop Arizona's new immigration law from taking effect later this month.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

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.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid