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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


AZ in heat of federal immigration debate

State laws and federal struggles are shaping the immigration issue — and Arizona is right in the heat of local and national debate.

Outcry erupted across the nation after Gov. Jan Brewer signed a controversial immigration law on April 23.

Senate Bill 1070, modified with House Bill 2162, gives local police agencies the legal right to question the immigration status of people when given “”reasonable suspicion.””

Edward Alden, senior fellow on the non-partisan Council of Foreign Relations, in a media conference call on Thursday noted that many actions have been taken federally to curb illegal immigration, but that Arizona’s new law “”is the issue on everybody’s mind.””

Seemingly an extension of the 287(g) program in the U.S. Immigrations and Custom Enforcement, by which the federal government is able to work with state and local governments to enforce immigration laws, the constitutionality of the new Arizona immigration law has been questioned.

“”It might actually be stayed,”” said Susan Ferrell, a lawyer with the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, which provides free legal services to students. “”It won’t go into effect until August anyway, so it’s possible that it won’t be enforced for a while longer.””

Ferrell said that under her job description, if and when the law does go into effect, there are limitations to what she can provide to students.

“”I am not allowed to represent students that have conflicts with the UAPD (University of Arizona Police Department). The Arizona Board of Regents’ policy that allows this office to exist states we cannot represent students that have conflicts with the university,”” she said. “”We cannot even make referrals.””

Ferrell said that if students are charged under the law, since it’s not the university that is charging them, she could then provide free legal services as always.

Chuck Rydzak, public information officer for Tucson Police Department, said students should not be worried about being unfairly prosecuted by the law if they are in the country legally.

“”They just changed the law that says the person has to be legally detained or under arrest before questioning their immigration status,”” Rydzak said. “”That would exclude victims, witnesses or conversations on the street.””

Rydzak said TPD is “”playing the waiting game just like everybody else”” to see how the law will be finalized.

“”We want to get our officers trained as soon as possible,”” he said. “”There’s a lot of confusion and a lot of concerns, but our chief (of police) is not concerned about the law. It will be enforced professionally just like any other law.””

This local enforcement of federal law has weighed heavy on the minds of many across the nation.

“”From looking into it, there has been some division among law enforcement officers in Arizona, but nationwide, there has been a pretty broad consensus that involving local law police officers in immigration enforcement can be counterproductive,”” Alden said.

The Council of Foreign Relations, of which Alden is a part, said the constitutionality of the law might be in question; however, the council expressed that there is a lot of common ground between Republicans and Democrats on local and federal levels about concentrated immigration reform.

“”There is no question at all that the current system is a mess and it’s very costly to the United States. The way we do immigration policy doesn’t help our economy in the way that it should and it doesn’t represent American values in the way that it should,”” he said.

Although the number of illegal border crossers apprehended plummeted from 1.6 million in 2000 to 540,000 in 2009, partially due to the recession, Alden said it was also due to substantial success at discouraging crossing at ports of entry.

Many agree that despite the new Arizona law, federal immigration needs to be reformed.

“”There’s no question that the unemployment picture makes it harder to do an immigration bill,”” Alden said. “”(Today) you have a stronger commitment between the United States government and Mexican government to gain control over that border to (make sure) that we don’t sacrifice that openness that has been such a strength to the United States in the past.””

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