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Arizona Immigration Law

May 5, 2010
Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix, AZ. Photo by Gayle Lindgren

On April 21, a Latino truck driver—a U.S. citizen, born in California—was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Phoenix, AZ on suspicion of being in the country illegally. He was released two hours later, after his wife arrived with his birth certificate, which they kept safely stored at home. Although the weigh-station agents who detained him say this had nothing to do with the new Arizona immigration law (which was signed into effect two days after the incident), this looks like the shape of things to come for people of color in Arizona, U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike.

Latino groups, including the legal blog Nuestras Vocas Latinas, encourage boycotting Arizona and companies based in Arizona until the new law is repealed. But is this only an issue for Latinos? Louis V. Galdieri doesn’t think so. In his May 2 blog post, he explains that, while his “features are unmistakably Mediterranean, Southern Italian, Neapolitan,” pampered white people tend to lump him in with Mexican immigrants, and so he will carry his passport at all times during his next trip to Arizona.

Galdieri also echos Frank Rich’s New York Times editorial, who believes this issue goes far beyond Arizona. Rich explains that the Arizona immigration bill is a sign of “a far broader movement that is not just about illegal immigrants.” He contends that a growing fear of anyone different from the majority has created a “nativist apoplexy” that is behind the “birther” movement to discredit President Obama, as well as overzealous immigration laws, and legal challenges in other areas.

Arizona’s fear of minority ethnicities is clearly reaching beyond its long-standing troubles with illegal immigrants from Mexico. In addition to the widely discussed immigration bill, Arizona has also just passed a bill that will withhold state funds from any school that teaches any courses or classes that “Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” or  “Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” And the Arizona Department of Education has begun removing teachers from classes for students learning English if, by the department’s arbitrary determination, those teachers speak with too heavy an accent of any kind.

Immigration laws similar to Arizona’s are being considered in other states, as well. It does appear that this is the start of a movement bigger than Arizona, and bigger than any one ethnicity.

What do you think? Does this trend concern you as a person of color? Does it concern you as a lawyer? Or are these writers overreacting?

Feel free to join the discussion here. Also, the 2010 NASABA Convention will include a breakout panel on immigration reform. Come join us, and become part of real solutions for immigration in America.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anita Harkess permalink
    May 6, 2010 3:42 am

    Breaking news: The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) announced on their Facebook page today that they will join the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) and the Asian Law Caucus (ALC) in legally challenging Arizona’s SB 1070, which they call “a sweeping and profoundly anti-immigrant piece of state legislation . . .”

  2. Ike Devji permalink
    June 10, 2010 9:01 pm

    SABA Arizona’s official position statement on SB-1070, the controversial immigration bill at the center of much local and national debate, including within the South Asian community has been uploaded to the NSABA site under “News”.

    The statement is the consensus of attorneys from different practice areas, backgrounds and political affiliations that presents a balanced view of the legislation from our standing as American attorneys of South Asian origin. Please feel free to share this with social, political and media networks you think would have an interest in it and our position.

    Web link Version:

    Sincerely, Ike Devji
    President SABA, AZ

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