Arizona Immigration Bill: Crackdown or Racial Profiling?

Jeanne Sager
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Flickr photo by takomabibelot
If you're planning a trip to Arizona, throw your passport in your pocket.

A bill creating the country's strictest immigration stance yet has passed the Arizona House and is headed back to the Senate. If it makes it past the second part of the legislature -- which it is expected to -- citizens will be subject to random confrontations with police regarding their immigration status.

SB 1070 calls for police to demand proof of citizenship in any situation in which "reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States."

If you can't present documentation of legal status, the law will allow for an automatic arrest. Picture it -- you go out for your morning run, do you take your driver's license and your passport with you? Didn't think so.

The state has cause for an immigration crackdown. Arizona is ranked sixth in the nation for the percentage of illegal aliens living in the state. The Federation for American Immigration Reform estimates the state's hospitals alone spend $150 million on health care for illegal residents.

But the means for demanding the documentation concerns immigrants rights groups who fear the draconian law will lead to racial profiling -- specifically zeroing in on a Hispanic population that represents 30 percent of the Arizona citizenry. That's double the population density of Hispanics in the country according to U.S. Census figures.

Such issues are already part of the Arizona landscape. Two years ago Hispanic activists filed suit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for allegedly using racial profiling to dictate where he sends his patrolling units -- circling Hispanic neighborhoods. Arpaio has said he's simply doing his job in cracking down on immigration.

SB 1070 may change the landscape of Arizona, but will it make the Grand Canyon State into a police state?

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