Arizona Immigration Law taints International Workers’ Day in the US

May 1st was International Workers’ Day in the United States. Instead of celebrating or recognizing the contributions of immigrants to the country, many activists were far too busy protesting the new immigration law that was signed in Arizona just recently.This law has stirred up much controversy and we have previously blogged about it here.

In Los Angeles, over 50,000 people protested and reiterated their demand for President Obama to deal with

immigration reform before tacking other issues like climate change and the federal budget.

The city council of Flagstaff, Arizona, has filed suit against the new law in an attempt to keep it from being passed this coming July.

If the law does come into effect on July 29th of this year, it will make it essentially illegal to be in the state “illegally”, creating a crime under state law which is a felony. As well, previously police could inquire about immigration status only if a person was arrested or detained, whereas, some are saying, that if the law passes they can ask anyone if there is a “suspicion”, creating worries about racism and racial profiling.

Now the term “suspicion” and other terms relating to how and when a police officer can inquire about someone’s immigration status in Arizona has come under the microscope of legal pundits. For a very informative analysis of the proposed legal limitations under the Arizona law, check out Mark Gollom’s column Reality Check,  posted on the CBC website here.

Mark, or “Marky” as he is known in some circles, correctly points out that Immigration law is generally within Federal and not state jurisdiction. The Obama administration therefore may have just cause to take action agaist Arizona for overstepping boundaries, or can I say crossing legal borders?

It’s currently estimated that 12 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States.

While the law was amended by the Governor last week to prevent a person’s race from being a reason for the questioning, it did not do much to dissuade any fears that the country’s large population of Latinos will be targeted.

An estimated 20,000 people also protested in cities like Dallas and Chicago, and one congressman from Illinois was arrested during protests in that city. Smaller similar protests were held country- wide. Many notable Latino figures from celebrities, civil rights leaders politicians and athletes headlined the protests.

“What we are witnessing today is the blatant targeting of an entire American population, Latinos,” said civil rights leader Dolores Huerta during one of the protests.

The same government is also garnering criticism for pulling funding from any Arizona school that offers classes that “promote the overthrow of the United States or are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group”. Another little-known fact about the legislation is that teachers with thick accents or accents that are not “grammatically correct”` will no longer be allowed to teach English classes – even though Arizona recruited many teachers from Latin America to teach Spanish in the 1990s. In 2000, most of those teachers switched to teaching English after voters decided instruction should only be offered in English.

Sounds very “Orwellian” to me.

Michael Niren

About Michael Niren

Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more

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