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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Laws targeting undocumented immigrants will do nothing but harm in Arizona

Column: Laws targeting undocumented immigrants will do nothing but harm in Arizona

Arizona has made national headlines for its obsession with immigration laws and its role in the country’s broader immigration debate throughout the last decade. Senate Bill 1070, which passed in 2010 and earned the nickname the “show me your papers” law, was perhaps the zenith of the controversy and set off a slew of boycotts and protests across the U.S. SB 1070 was just the beginning.

Previous Arizona Governor Jan Brewer drew massive amounts of support from conservatives after infamously shaking her finger at President Barrack Obama on the tarmac during his 2012 visit to Arizona. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has been Maricopa Country’s sheriff for the last 23 years, also made a name for himself with his history of racial profiling and harsh treatment of undocumented people.

It’s been a few years since Arizona has grabbed national headlines for itself in regard to immigration, but 2016 is a new year and with a Republican legislature and governor, it seems almost certain that new immigration laws are just around the corner.

SB 1377, aka “Grant’s Law,” seeks to force judges to sentence undocumented people to the fullest extent if found guilty of committing a crime after they have previously broken immigration laws.

In other words, people in the country illegally would have to be sentenced to maximum jail terms regardless of extenuating factors or the discretion of a judge. Furthermore, undocumented persons would have no opportunities for bail, parole, reduced sentencing or community supervision.

The bill passed the Arizona Senate by a 19-11 vote in February, but the House of Representatives has yet to take any action.

If Arizona has learned anything from its last foray into controversial immigration laws, this law will not come to pass.

SB 1070 not only hurt the reputation of Arizona, it also cost our state millions of dollars. Numerous national organizations, conventions and tourists boycotted Arizona as a result of the hateful legislation, costing the Arizona economy approximately $141 million, according to the Center for American Progress. This is a combination of cancelled hotel bookings, approximately 2,800 lost job opportunities and lost tax revenue.

In addition to these economic repercussions, the state also spent $640,000 training police officers to enforce of SB 1070.

If SB 1377 were to gain traction and pass into law, it would not only prompt a new wave of protests and backlash, but it would almost certainly be challenged in court, forcing Arizona to use taxpayer money to defend another immigration law.

Although SB 1070 was partially held up by the Supreme Court, a law like SB 1377, which specifically targets one group of people, has a far stronger chance of eventually being ruled unconstitutional.

Sen. Lupe Contreras, the only Latino man on the committee, as well as one of the senators who opposes the bill, said, “We need to fight for the rights of every person, good, bad or indifferent. When we start classifying certain laws to do certain things to certain individuals, I can’t stand for it.”

Some legal scholars have suggested that passing a law like SB 1377, which means the courts would treat undocumented people differently because they are undocumented, would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Society has a right to punish people for breaking the law, but it does not have the right to determine that a specific group of people can be discriminated against.

Gov. Doug Ducey has not made immigration one of his major priorities. He appears to be more interested in trade and defunding public education.

Hopefully state Republicans will be unable to sway him. The last thing Arizona needs is another costly fight over an illegal immigration law meant to shame, hurt and abuse some of the most vulnerable people in our state.

Follow Jacob Winkelman on Twitter.

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