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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora