Saturday, July 31, 2010

Arizona ruling may backfire for immigrants

Arizona ruling may backfire for immigrants

Like most civil rights supporters, I celebrated last week's news that a judge suspended the harshest portions of Arizona's xenophobic immigration law. But the more I think about it, the more I fear it will backfire in the near future.

The ruling suspends the Arizona law's provision that ask local police officers enforcing other laws to demand immigration papers from people they suspect are in the country illegally. That could have led to racially-motivated interrogations of both legal and undocumented Hispanics.

But contrary to conventional wisdom that the judge's decision was a victory for pro-immigrant forces, it could have a negative political impact in November's legislative elections and may end up hurting immigrants in the long run.

First, the ruling was the first step of what's likely to be a long legal battle. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a vocal supporter of the state law, has already said she has appealed the ruling and that she may take it all the way to the Supreme Court.


The legal battle over the Arizona law is far from over.

Backers of the state law and similar bills that have been introduced in 17 states say that in light of federal government inaction, states have to take measures on their own to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants. The Obama Administration and pro-immigrant groups say the law violates fundamental rights, and call for a more comprehensive immigration reform.

Second, the ruling may energize Republicans in the November election. It will be used by anti-immigrant groups as a rallying cry to get voters to elect a new Congress that is more sympathetic to Arizona-style measures.

``I fear that the unintended consequence of this ruling is that it will redouble restrictionists' efforts at the national level, which will be to the detriment of immigrants,'' Temple University law professor Peter Spiro said. ``They are hitting a brick wall at the state level, so they will step up their efforts in Washington.''

Third, and most important, the news that the judge's ruling knocked out the most pervasive traits of the Arizona law may drive many Hispanics to stay at home in November...

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