July 2010, Volume 16, Number 3
Arizona, Polls, REPAIR
Arizona enacted a law in April 2010 making it a crime for unauthorized foreigners to be in the state, prompting Senate Democrats to announce a "framework" for a comprehensive immigration reform bill ahead of demonstrations on May 1, 2010 in cities across the US in support of legalization. Despite the Democrats' proposal being more enforcement-oriented than the comprehensive immigration reform bill approved by the Senate in 2006, Republicans predicted it would be difficult to enact immigration reform in 2010. President Obama seemed to agree, saying: "I want to begin work this year" on immigration reform.
Arizona. Arizona, where almost half of the million foreign-born residents are believed to be unauthorized, enacted the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB 1070) on April 23, 2010, making it a misdemeanor to be illegally in the state. Immigrants must carry proof of their legal status, and show IDs to police officers who have a "reasonable suspicion" they may be illegally in the US; violators can be fined $2,500 or jailed up to six months.
Arizona became the major entry point to the United States for unauthorized migrants from Mexico over the past decade, reflecting the shift of unauthorized entry attempts from California and Texas to the Arizona desert.
SB 1070 states that its "intent ? is to make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona." President Obama criticized SB 1070, saying: "if we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country." Ex-Arizona governor and current DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano vetoed similar bills during two terms as Arizona's governor.
SB 1070, as amended, requires police officers who lawfully stop, detain or arrest a person whom they have "reasonable suspicion" to believe is unauthorized, to determine that person's immigration status "when practicable." Arizona residents can sue police to force them to comply with the law, and cities are prohibited from developing sanctuary policies, as when they prohibit police from asking about the immigration status of the persons they encounter. Employers who impede traffic while attempting to hire day laborers can be cited for misdemeanors, as can unauthorized migrants who solicit work in public places.
SB 1070, scheduled to take effect July 29, 2010, amends the Legal Arizona Workers Act, which since January 1, 2008 has required Arizona employers to use the federal E-Verify system to check the legal status of new hires (www.azag.gov/LegalAZWorkersAct). Employers who knowingly or intentionally hire unauthorized workers can lose their state and local business licenses. The Obama administration filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the LAWA in a pending US Supreme Court case that challenges it (Chamber of Commerce v. Candelabra).
State Senator Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), author of SB 1070 and the Legal Arizona Workers Act, expects SB 1070 to reduce the number of unauthorized foreigners in Arizona. He said, "When you make life difficult [for the unauthorized], most will leave on their own." Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law. Her likely Democratic opponent in November 2010, the state's Attorney General Terry Goddard, opposes SB 1070.
US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said: "I think [SB 1070] is a good tool" for Arizona because the federal government has not reduced illegal migration. McCain, who called unauthorized foreigners "God's children" and embraced legalization in 2006, released a TV ad in summer 2010 that blamed illegal immigrants for "smuggling, home invasions, and murder," ending with the tagline that Washington should "complete the danged fence" on the Mexico-US border. McCain said: "Arizona is under siege" because of "people flooding across? broken borders?[and] drug cartels inflicting incredible damage."
Reactions. Critics predicted widespread racial profiling. Migrant advocates, including the National Immigration Law Center, sued to block implementation, asserting that SB 1070 is a "brazen and improper usurpation of the federal government's constitutional role in immigration regulation" and that the Arizona legislature's declaration that the law is intended to promote attrition through enforcement is contrary to current federal policy.
The legal issue is likely to turn on whether Arizona police are engaged in lawful "concurrent enforcement" of immigration laws with federal authorities or in unlawful racial profiling. Since the 1940s, federal law has required immigrants to carry papers showing they are legally in the US. A 2002 Department of Justice memo reversed a 1996 Department of Justice memo to conclude that state police officers have "inherent power" to arrest unauthorized foreigners for violating federal law.
The Obama administration announced that it would sue to block SB 1070 from taking effect as planned on July 29, 2010.
In July 1997, police in Chandler, a Phoenix suburb of 250,000, cooperated with Border Patrol agents to arrest 432 unauthorized foreigners in sweeps that the state attorney general later determined were unlawful. Suits targeting the "Chandler Roundup" were eventually settled with the city paying 29 plaintiffs for $400,000 and pledging not to conduct immigration-enforcement sweeps in the future.
The National Council of La Raza urged a boycott of Arizona because of SB 1070. The major target is baseball's All-Star Game scheduled for Phoenix in July 2011; about 30 percent of baseball players are Hispanic and half of the 30 major league teams train in Arizona. The NCLR hopes that moving the All-Star Game will encourage Arizona to repeal the law. Hispanics are 30 percent of Arizona residents and 12 percent of voters; non-Hispanic whites cast 78 percent of the state's votes in 2008.
Legislators in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and other states introduced copycat bills. Massachusetts, sometimes called a "sanctuary state" for unauthorized foreigners, considered a bill that would require applicants for public assistance to show they are legally in the US and strengthen or expand existing rules that block illegal immigrants from public health care, housing and higher education benefits.
Candidates seeking votes were often asked if they would support a version of the Arizona law in their state. Many Republicans pledged to support laws similar SB 1070 to "send a message" to the federal government to strengthen immigration enforcement.
The National Council of State Legislatures reported that about 1,400 bills a year dealing with immigration are being introduced; most seek to crack down on unauthorized foreigners.
Polls. Most Americans support the Arizona law. A Pew poll in May 2010 found 59 percent support for the Arizona law; only 25 percent of respondents supported President Obama's handling of immigration http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1591/public-support-arizona-immigration-law-poll). Over 70 percent of Pew's respondents supported requiring people to present documents showing they are legally in the US to police if asked, and two-thirds supported allowing police to detain anyone encountered who cannot produce such documents.
A May 2010 WSJ/NBC poll reported that two-thirds of US adults support SB 1070, even though almost two-thirds agreed that it was likely to lead to discrimination against legal Hispanic immigrants. A New York Times/CBS News poll released on May 3, 2010 found that 78 percent of respondents wanted the US government to do more to prevent illegal migration; a majority supported the Arizona law and the concept of allowing police to question people they encounter about their immigration status. Most respondents want major changes in the immigration selection system, but many do not favor legalization? 75 percent agreed that illegal migrants were a drain on the economy because they did not all pay taxes but used public services like hospitals and schools.
A June 2010 Washington Post-ABC News poll reported that 58 percent of Americans support the Arizona law, very similar to the 59 percent of California voters who supported Proposition 187 in November 1994. The same poll found 57 percent of respondents supporting earned legalization. A Quinnipiac University poll found 51-31 percent support for SB 1070; 48 percent of respondents wanted a similar law enacted in their states; 35 percent did not.
These polls find wide gaps between the opinion held by members of elites, who favor legalization and more immigration, and that of respondents lower on the socio-economic scale, who are generally opposed. Former President Bill Clinton on April 28, 2010 said: "I don't think there's any alternative but for us to increase immigration to help the economy grow and to fix the long-term finances of Medicare and Social Security."
Congress. Senate Democrats released a 26-page proposal, the Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform, on April 29, 2010. REPAIR emphasized enforcement to discourage illegal migration in an effort to win Republican support. However, REPAIR did not receive any Republican support, and will not be put into legislative language until there are Republican supporters.
Under REPAIR, border enforcement "benchmarks" would have to be met before legalization could begin; a commission would be created to evaluate border security and make recommendations to Congress within 12 months. REPAIR calls for more Border Patrol agents and an entry-exit system to ensure that foreign visitors depart as required.
REPAIR would require all US employers to check new hires within six years through an improved E-Verify system, the Biometric Enrollment, Locally-Stored Information, and Electronic Verification of Employment (BELIEVE). BELIEVE, to be funded by fees, would be phased in beginning with industries employing large numbers of unauthorized foreigners; it would require US employers to use scanners to check the validity of new Social Security cards presented by new hires that have biometric markers such as fingerprints. Civil monetary penalties for knowingly hiring unauthorized workers would triple.
REPAIR offers a relatively simple path to legal status for an estimated 11 million illegal migrants. Unauthorized foreigners in the US by the date of enactment would register and pay fees to obtain a new Lawful Prospective Immigrant status that would allow them to live and work legally in the US. After eight years, they could become immigrants by passing English and civics tests and paying more fees. The proposal promises to clear the backlog in family-based immigration within eight years, in part by lifting caps on immediate relatives of legal immigrants (immediate relatives of US citizens can immigrate without delay, but there are queues for immediate relatives of immigrants).
REPAIR would change the immigrant selection system. Foreigners who earn Masters and PhDs from US universities in science and engineering and have US job offers could immediately obtain immigrant visas. New anti-fraud provisions would apply to employers seeking H-1B and L-1 visas for foreign workers with at least bachelor's degrees, including a requirement that all employers (not just H-1B dependent employers as currently) try to recruit US workers before hiring H-1Bs and not lay off US workers to make room for H-1B foreigners.
For low-skilled workers, REPAIR includes the Agricultural Jobs, Opportunity, Benefits and Security Act (AgJOBS) bill, which would legalize up to 1.35 million unauthorized farm workers (plus their family members) and make employer-friendly changes in the H-2A program. The H-2B program, which admits up to 66,000 foreigners a year to fill seasonal nonfarm jobs, would add protections for US workers while exempting returning H-2B workers from the 66,000-a-year cap if the US unemployment rate is below eight percent.
A new three-year H-2C provisional visa would admit guest workers to fill year-round jobs; H-2C visa holders could change employers after one year of US work. Three-year H-2C visas could be renewed once, allowing six years of US work, and H-2C visa holders could become immigrants by satisfying integration requirements. The number of H-2C visas would be adjusted according to unemployment and other indicators, but employers could obtain an H-2C visa for a foreign worker even if the cap has been reached by paying higher-than-usual wages and additional fees.
A new Commission on Employment-Based Immigration would study "America's employment-based immigration system to recommend policies that promote economic growth and competitiveness while minimizing job displacement, wage depression and unauthorized employment." The CEBI would issue an annual report with recommendations and could declare immigration emergencies when it concluded there were too many or too few foreign workers.
Reactions. President Obama released a statement in support of the Senate Democrats' proposal, calling it "an important step" to fix "our broken immigration system." Failure to enact immigration reform, Obama said, would "leave the door open to a patchwork of actions at the state and local level that are inconsistent and, as we have seen recently, often misguided."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who faces a tough re-election fight, said there were 56 Democratic Senators in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. He added: "I know the Democrats in my caucus are eager to finally push immigration reform over the finish line, but we'll need help from the other side." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said "the immigration bill must begin in the Senate," while House Republican leader John Boehner (R-OH) said: "There is not a chance that immigration is going to move through the Congress" in 2010.
Ken Dilanian and Nicholas Riccardi, "Border security trips up immigration debate," Los Angeles Times, June 15, 2010. Spencer Hsu, "Senate Democrats' plan highlights nation's shift to the right on immigration," Washington Post, May 2, 2010. Randal C. Archibald, "U.S.'s Toughest Immigration Law Is Signed in Arizona," New York Times, April 23, 2010. Nicholas Riccardi and Ashley Power, "Arizona's immigration strategy: Make life tough," Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2010.