This piece originally appeared as an OpEd in the Arizona Republic.
Several weeks ago, when Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the anti-gay Senate Bill 1062, she urged us to “turn the ugliness of the debate…into a renewed search for greater respect and understanding.” She cited “non-discrimination” as a core value among Arizonans.
It’s time now for the governor to follow her own advice and live out her own words.
The governor must re-examine her support for Senate Bill 1070, which is nothing more than state-sanctioned discrimination. This law gives law-enforcement officers across the state an excuse to harass Latinos, to turn anyone who “looks Mexican” or “foreign” into a suspect.
When Brewer signed SB 1070 into law on April 23, 2010, she said she would “not tolerate racial discrimination or racial profiling in Arizona.” But the incidents documented by the ACLU of police officers demanding that Latinos prove their citizenship or immigration status say the opposite.
Section 2(B) of SB 1070 — also known as the “show me your papers” provision — is being aggressively enforced in communities statewide. Officers rely on their own biases, using skin color or manner of speaking as a reason to stop and question someone.
Officers are questioning passengers during traffic stops, crime victims and witnesses and even young students in school about their immigration status.
Phoenix police questioned a middle-school student and his mother — both U.S. citizens — about their immigration status after arresting the child for getting into a fight near the school bus. Mesa police jailed a 67-year-old U.S. citizen — ostensibly for picking a water bottle out of a trash can in a convenience-store parking lot — so they could check his immigration status. Tucson police turned a middle-school student over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents despite the fact that he was eligible to remain in the U.S.
There are dozens of other stories like these — and more are accumulating each day SB 1070 remains on the books.
The governor got what she needed out of SB 1070; she was elected to a second term. But her political gain was Arizona’s loss. She has spent — and continues to spend — millions of taxpayer dollars defending a law that has had devastating consequences on our economy, reputation and communities.
SB 1070 and similar anti-immigrant laws in other states have proven to be failed experiments, and the tide has turned against them. Since 2011, no state has passed an SB 1070-like law, and many jurisdictions are now passing immigrant-friendly legislation. Alabama and South Carolina recently stopped defending laws similar to SB 1070 after realizing that they are costly, divisive and discriminatory.
As we approach the four-year anniversary of SB 1070, Gov. Brewer should right her wrong. She should live up to the values of non-discrimination she embraced during her SB 1062 veto message and stop defending SB 1070.
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