U.S. states seem to be filling in the gap so to speak in an area many have felt the federal government has been lacking in for too long – securing the southern border and enforcing current laws regarding illegal immigrants. Reactions have been strong but mixed in response to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s signing of the state’s new immigration law which is said to be the toughest in the country.
Arizona's new legislation makes being in the country illegally a crime. The possible punishment is six months in jail and a $2,500 fine. According to a Reuters report, there are an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants living in Arizona, which straddles the main point of entry for illegal immigrants crossing into the United States from Mexico.
Strong Support At Home
The new bill seems to have strong support in Arizona among both residents and members of the law enforcement community who have watched as the activities of smugglers and gangs have led to fear and frustration among the local population. The recent killing of a rancher near the Mexico border by a believed drug smuggler has only added to feelings long present as a degree of lawlessness seems to escalate.
Some critics have expressed skepticism at the timing of the bill and its signing, noting that Governor Brewer is facing a primary election challenge from her right and made the move now to try and secure up the base for re-election.
Critics have also put forth their concern that the bill will led to racial profiling. Among them is President Obama who said, “I instructed members of the administration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation.” Mexican officials are warning their citizens that they may face “harassment” in the state.
Meanwhile the very real and perhaps still unanswered question of what to do with the large number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. appears up for debate. Many offer a path to citizenship as the answer to the country’s immigration problem but others claim that approach would only lead to amnesty. Appearing on Fox News, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer expressed this viewpoint well, saying, “When the president says as he said today that the reason all of this is happening is because the federal government has not acted, he's right about that. But he is completely wrong in implying as he does that a solution is what he's going to advocate, which is amnesty. Amnesty is the exactly wrong answer. In the absence of a closed border, amnesty is a sign at the border to anyone who wants to enter illegally as a way to say come on in, try again and again and again. If you get in, hide. Ultimately, in a decade or so, there's going to be amnesty and you'll become a citizen.”
Boycotts Called For
San Francisco city officials have called for a boycott of Arizona businesses as a sign of protest to the new law. Others have suggested baseball fans across the country should boycott or protest any games played by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a way to send a message to the team’s Republican owners. Taking things one step further is Democratic Congressman Jose Serrano from New York who has indicated that he will send a letter to the Commissioner of Major League Baseball urging him to move the 2011 All Star Game from Arizona due to the law. Serrano was quoted about his move in Roll Call saying, “With nearly 1/3 of all Major Leaguers coming from foreign countries, there is no way that a state with this discriminatory law should be the host,” Serrano said. “MLB has a very loud megaphone and their rejection of Arizona’s action would be an important demonstration to the state that we do not tolerate such displays of intolerance in our nation.”
Additional Laws and Lawsuits Expected
It seems that at least seven other states may be following Arizona’s suit as lawmakers continue to announce that they will seek similar legislation for their states.
On the other side, opponents of the law are planning lawsuits against the measure in the hopes of stopping it before it takes affect this summer by claiming that federal government has the sole authority to regulate immigration.