Editorial: Wrong turn on immigration

Arizona might not be the leader in a lot of things, but if a bill passed by the state House of Representatives Tuesday is signed by Gov. Jan Brewer, the state might just take the lead on extremely tough — not to mention extremely contentious — immigration policy.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, will require police to ask anyone who they suspect to be in the country illegally to produce documents, put a stop to day-labor solicitation, criminalize picking up a person if the driver knows the person is here illegally and require enforcement to the full extent of the law, among other things.

Even if you’re a hard-liner on the immigration issue, this law should not be seen as a victory. Not only does it border on unconstitutionality, it’s not going to be a huge help to Arizona. It will put a huge, unfunded strain on police forces without being able to pay for the increase in labor, it will have a negative impact on the economy and it will expose the state to expensive lawsuits.

If an immigration law requires officers to check the immigration status of everyone for which they have “reasonable suspicion,” accidentally jailing someone who “fits the profile,” and “reasonable suspicion” turns into racial profiling, not to mention a lawsuit with merit.

Intentional or not, racial profiling is not the direction immigration policy should go. It criminalizes people based on the way they look, and that’s not OK — it’s as simple as that.

And Arizona doesn’t really have a good track record on the issue. It’s no surprise then, that Maricopa County is home to Joe Arpaio, self-proclaimed America’s Toughest Sheriff, who is being investigated for civil-rights abuses in regards to his approach to immigration.

Arizona may be on the front lines of the border issue, but laws like this clearly show that the state government, which tends to lean toward the extreme, shouldn’t be the one to formulate the immigration policy.

This issue goes way beyond Arizona, and leaving important decisions up to each individual state puts the U.S. at risk. A hodgepodge of state immigration policies along one border will only add to the confusion.

We need a comprehensive national immigration policy, and we need the federal government to tackle immigration reform as quickly as possible.

Illegal immigration is a federal issue, an important issue and at its core, a national security issue. As people are dying while crossing the border or as victims of the crime that surrounds it, the tendency toward drastic and offensive policies becomes greater. It should be up to Congress, the White House and the Department of Homeland Security to take the lead on immigration, not state legislatures.

Without federal action, states will be put in the position of taking drastic moves to secure their own borders. That can only lead to more unreasonable policies like Arizona’s proposed one.


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