This week, Arizona’s “Show Me Your Papers” provision was given the go-ahead. The court ruled that the state could enforce this law despite civil rights activists’ claim that it will lead to systematic racial profiling. This provision allows Arizona law enforcement agencies to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect is in the country illegally. A similar policy was enacted in Alabama about a year ago, making Arizona’s the second measure of this kind to receive approval from federal courts. The court justices warned that the law would be reevaluated if it displayed a pattern of racial profiling or if it resulted in longer detentions.
An advocacy group called the National Immigration Law Center released a report that says law enforcement officers have began to inspire private citizens to discriminate and abuse people that they think are illegal. Other civil and immigrant-rights groups hope to collect enough data to challenge the law. Protests have been taking place in Phoenix outside a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building with activists chanting “No papers, no fear!”
Organizers of the immigrant rights group say that the best way to deal with the provision is to encourage people not to cooperate with the enforcement efforts. Undocumented immigrants are being taught how to respond if questioned by the police, such as invoking their rights for a lawyer or using a cell phone to record video of the conversation. Some organizers have been telling people to only offer their name and date of birth.
The newly enacted law has caused increased stress and concern within undocumented immigrant families. Some parents are not letting their children stay after school for activities. Many fear that their families will be torn apart because parents are being deported, leaving their children behind.
So what is the purpose of all of this? The federal immigration department lacks the resources to deport illegal immigrants who are not repeat offenders or a threat to society, so the law will not likely result in increased deportations. Governor Jan Brewer believes that the law will push the federal government to act on immigration reform rather than act as a solution to the state’s immigration issues. Many predict that the “Show Me Your Papers” provision will lead to more hostility towards documented or undocumented Hispanics even though Arizona’s economy depends on them.