Council votes to oppose measure; local conference unites groups in opposition
National polls show majority favors Arizona's new law
By Bill Pogue and Miriam Raftery
May 10, 2010 (San Diego) – The San Diego City Council has voted 7 to 1 to condemn Arizona’s tough immigration law, Senate Bill 1070. "This law threatens to divide our union," Councilman Ben Hueso said. "I believe it violates the Constitution. It victimizes legal residents as well as those who are here in the country illegally. And, it discourages the victims of crimes in the immigrant community to access justice."
Councilmembers joined mayors of San Francisco and Minneapolis, 12 City Councilmembers in New York City, Tucson and Flagstaff city governments in criticizing the measure. San Diego Unified School Board is also preparing to vote on opposing the measure as well as warning parents that travel to Arizona may subject their families to unlawful scrutiny.
California gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman, a Republican, and Democrat Jerry Brown have both stated that they oppose the measure. "I think there's just better ways to solve this problem," Whitman said. But Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner supports the measure. "They've taken, finally, the power in their own hands to do something about illegal immigration in Arizona," he said in a recent debate.
Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) has called the law “a fantastic beginning” to controlling illegal immigration. His opponent, Raymond Lutz, opposes the measure and instead supports other immigration reforms as well as changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which decimated farming in Mexico by allowing U.S. farmers to undercut prices on farm products in Mexico, leading to a large influx of Mexicans crossing the border in search of work.
Nationally, some labor, civil rights and immigrant rights groups are calling for a boycott of Arizona. The move raises concerns about the impact upon tourism to Phoenix and other Arizona locations, since in many Mexican nationals and immigrants who are U.S. citizens come to Phoenix to vacation and shop. Major League Baseball, which many immigrant players, has also threatened to withdraw the 2011 All-Star Game from Arizona. Meanwhile, some Arizona officials have suggested they may launch counter-boycotts against states or other jurisdictions that boycott Arizona.
Locally, leaders from local civil rights, faith-based, social justice, labor and committee groups joined a coalition of 37 organizations at a conference held at the USD Joan B.Kroc Center for Peace and Justice on April 26th to discuss and protest Arizona’s recent immigration law, SB 1070. According to Ricardo Favela of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, 49 participants represented Christian, Jewish and Islamic faith groups as well as ethnic minorities, human rights and social justice organizations, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Uniformly, the groups criticized the law and the phrase “reasonable suspicion” in SB 1070, which makes being an illegal immigrant a cause for the police to detain a person. There is a provision in the measure allowing a community to be sued if it fails to comply. Both critics and advocates say that it is the most inclusive and strict immigration law that they have seen in the USA, that it would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and that it would give the Arizona police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.
Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson of the National United Church of Christ, said that it “creates an atmosphere of suspicion, hatred, and makes scapegoats of immigrants and US citizens alike”. Rita Cepeda, President of Mesa College, said “this is about human rights, this is about intellectual vitality, and most of all, it’s about the economic future of California”.
The conference made a unanimous declaration against Arizona’s SB 1070.
Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics, and perhaps some middle easterners, regardless of their citizenship status. The allegation is that it is blatant racial profiling. Critics say that the law will be tested in court as it is a function of the federal, not the state, government to handle immigration, including at both legislative and enforcement levels. Three lawsuits have already been filed. The U.S. Justice Department is also considering legal action on Constitutional grounds.
Supporters of the law argue that it is necessary to stem the tide of illegal immigration. They also contend that the bill will lessen border violence.
Several national polls indicate the majority of Americans favor Arizona’s law. A Gallup poll found that over 75% of Americans have heard about the measure and of those, 51% support the new law. An online Angus Global Monitor poll found 71% favor requiring state and local police to determine a person's residency status if there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person is an illegal immigrant, as well as arresting people who are unable to provide documentation to prove they are in the US legally.
As of press deadline, a poll of East County Magazine readers shows 59% in favor of Arizona’s immigration law, while 41% are opposed.