Law creates fear, undermines public safety

Our view: Rumors of raids prompt some to tamp down their Cinco de Mayo fiestas
2010-05-07T00:00:00Z Law creates fear, undermines public safety Arizona Daily Star
May 07, 2010 12:00 am

States pay good money for the national exposure now aimed at Arizona. Unfortunately, the kind of attention Arizona is getting - including the law's harm to public safety - has led many people to decide they don't want to visit or be associated with our state.

Cinco de Mayo festivities in Arizona this week were chilled by fears aroused by the new law, The Associated Press reported Thursday. Immigration-raid rumors, worries about gathering in public places and declines in shopping and eating out meant the usually boisterous holiday was quieter, the AP reported.

The argument against the deleterious new law, SB 1070, reaches beyond basic civil rights of Arizonans, and the economic impact of a law that portrays the state as a place hostile to any kind of non-white person.

SB 1070 undermines real public safety and it does not protect Arizonans from the myriad problems associated with illegal immigration. The law's supporters seek to give the impression that it's fixing a problem, but no state law can solve the flawed national immigration system. The law also creates new obstacles to keeping all Arizonans safe.

Local police officers rely on people living in a community to help rid the streets of drug dealers, to catch criminals who prey on law-abiding people and to uphold a standard of living in a neighborhood. Police can't do this alone. They need the trust and cooperation of residents - and that can't happen if people are scared of the police.

Supporters of SB 1070 respond with, in essence, you shouldn't be afraid of the police if you're not doing anything wrong - that legal residents and U.S. citizens have nothing to fear because they're not the targets of the law.

Not so fast. Members of the public, let alone the police who are charged with enforcing this nebulous law, have no real way to know what officers will use as "reasonable suspicion" that will prompt the inquiry into a person's legal status.

Amendments, passed by the Legislature shortly after SB 1070 was signed and sparked boycotts and protests, seek to head off allegations of racial profiling by barring police from using race, ethnicity or national origin as the only basis for "reasonable suspicion" that a person is in the country illegally.

But what does that mean? No one really knows. Even if it's not supposed to apply to witnesses or crime victims, the law puts a wedge of distrust between residents and the law enforcement officers who are supposed to keep Arizona streets safe.

The stakes are raised on every Arizonans' contact with police if SB 1070 goes into effect.

Turning local police into proxy immigration agents also raises the stakes on their already dangerous jobs because both sides have much more to lose - residents can be arrested for not having the proper paperwork on them, while police agencies can be sued by community members who think they're not enforcing the law adequately.

The Arizona law does nothing to fix the root of the problem, and that is its greatest sham.

Those who think SB 1070 is the way to finally tackle illegal immigration and its surrounding problems are wrong.

The federal government has failed, with depressing reliability, to solve the underlying problems that lead to illegal immigration and create a system in which poor people are exploited and the hard-core criminals who traffic in them flourish.

SB 1070 should be seen for what it is - a flawed attempt to do the federal government's job by addressing the symptoms of illegal immigration, not the true causes. It should be struck down.

Arizona Daily Star

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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