By Beth Baker-Cristales
The infamous law SB 1070 took effect in Arizona on July 29th with some key provisions of the law blocked by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton in response to arguments by the U.S. Justice Department. For example, provisions requiring police officers to check the immigration status of people they believe are involved in criminal activity as well as the requirement to check the immigration status of individuals being released from jail were blocked. Five other suits have been filed against the law, and the legal battles will likely continue for years.
Passage of the law reflects the xenophobia and anti-immigrant hysteria that is increasingly common in Arizona and other parts of the country. Now legislatures in 17 states are considering legislation similar to Arizona’s SB 1070 and some states and municipalities are implementing mirror policies without passage of legislation.
Although Judge Bolton’s ruling is a key victory for advocates of immigrants’ rights, we have to continue to put pressure on the Obama administration and the Congress to pass meaningful, comprehensive immigration reform. Unfortunately, there has been little public education about the real roots and impacts of immigration in the U.S. In fact, much of the immigration in the past several decades has been fueled by free trade agreements that devastated local economies in Latin America or by U.S. military intervention abroad.
Economists have concluded over and over again that immigrants do not take jobs away from U.S.-born workers and that immigrants contribute much more to the U.S. economy than they consume or utilize in the form of benefits. But in a time of declining standards of living and a faltering economy, blaming immigrants is a convenient and easy tactic for politicians and activists who are unwilling to analyze the real sources of economic decline – corporate greed, government deregulation, and an economy based on consumption and profit rather than human needs and sustainability.
Our economy and our society have much to benefit from immigration reform that allows the full incorporation of immigrations who currently are denied legal permanent residence and citizenship. The keys to achieving comprehensive immigration reform are public education and continued pressure on Congress and President Obama. The past several years have shown that together, activists can make a change in the national political environment. And this election cycle is a perfect time to educate those around you about the issues and to push for reform now – stay tuned for details about Witness for Peace’s fall campaign.
Beth Baker-Cristales is on the board of Witness for Peace – Southwest.