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Arizona's new immigration law turns up flame on political melting pot

Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer

Like immigration, politics knows no borders and the battle in Arizona is expected to complicate the already confused fight over the issue that crosses partisan political boundaries.

By signing the Arizona bill, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has further pushed the issue of how to deal with illegal immigrants to the forefront.

And it is unclear which side benefits: those seeking immigration overhaul or those who would like the issue to go away, especially in this midterm election year.

The Arizona bill gives police broader powers to stop people and ask for identification. The law pits Arizona  against the federal government in two ways.

First, it could be a direct challenge to the individual’s civil rights. How can an officer make a reasonable decision to stop someone without running the risk of imposing on a legal resident or citizen?

Secondly, it challenges the limits of what a state can do and what the federal government should be doing.

President Obama, in comments on Friday, cited both themes.

“Indeed, our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others,” Obama said at a naturalization ceremony for those serving in the military. “That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threatened to....

... undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

Obama said he had “instructed members of my administration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation.” That would imply that his administration would be ready to act in any of the expected civil rights suits likely when the law goes into practice.

But the president signaled that the issue is broader, going to the question of who determines border policy, a state or the federal government.

The lead federal agency on border issues is the Department of Homeland Security, headed by Secretary Janet Napolitano, a former Democratic Arizona governor who twice vetoed legislation similar to the bill signed Friday.

Mexico US Border Fence

The department, does not comment on specific state legislation, but the federal policy has been clear.

The federal government does not want a patchwork of differing state laws on immigration and wants a comprehensive solution.

The federal government has also concentrated its efforts in fighting criminals, strengthening border security, and on fugitives, rather than the undocumented worker who could be seen as the target in the Arizona law.

“DHS continues to focus on smart, effective immigration enforcement that places priority on those dangerous criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities, on employers who continue to drive illegal immigration by knowingly hiring undocumented workers, and by surging law enforcement resources at the Southwest border,” a DHS spokesman said by e-mail.

“If we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country,” Obama said, pointing to Arizona. “As a nation, as a people, we can choose a different future -- a future that keeps faith with our history, with our heritage, and with the hope that America has always inspired in the hearts of people all over the world.”

But that requires a political solution, always a problem in an election year, especially now when partisanship has so poisoned the legislative air in Washington.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said her chamber will not act on an immigration overhaul until the Senate first moves, a recognition of the tough vote. Some Democrats in the House are still smarting at how the healthcare battle played out, with the House having to go out on a limb only to be stuck with a more conservative bill. They would like to avoid a repeat over immigration.

In the Senate, New York Democrat Charles Schumer and Republican Lindsey Graham have been working on a bipartisan bill, but it is unclear whether there is enough time or will to bring it up before the elections.

Immigration reform is unlike financial regulation reform, on which Democrats and Republicans can find some common ground because there is a common enemy, greedy Wall Street bankers and traders. On immigration there is no common enemy to unite those more used to sparring than speaking.

“I’ll continue to consult with Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and I would note that 11 current Republican Senators voted to pass immigration reform four years ago. I’m hopeful that they will join with Democrats in doing so again so we can make the progress the American people deserve,” Obama said.

Of course, one of the leading Republicans who pushed for immigration reform was Arizona Sen. John McCain, Obama’s opponent in the presidential race. McCain faces a tough primary from a candidate even more conservative than he is. McCain has said he supports the Arizona bill.

--Michael Muskal

Photo: Gov. Brewer's office; Associated Press.

Comments () | Archives (15)

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Obama immigration bill = amnesty

"On immigration there is no common enemy to unite those more used to sparring than speaking"

Um, how about ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS????


Legal citizens who jumped through hoops are welcome--but illegal immigrants will not get any Amnesty--leading to citizenship.
Arizona Govern Jan Brewer has more--SPINE--than the majority of our politicians, to fight the overpowering onslaught of illegal immigration. She signed the 1070 immigration bill. Arizona a border state is rampant with murders, home invasion, kidnappings, rapes, assaults and one of the highest crime rates, by illegal immigrants. Its ignorance and indifference of Washington to enforce our immigration laws. In fact they have purposely under funded them.

San. Harry Reid (D-NV) is not being outed just for health care reform, but being a puppet of open border-special interests groups? LETS MAKE THAT CLEAR.One thing for absolutely sure, desperate illegal alien families will be fleeing Arizona, for more greener pastures such as California. Seeing California is a Refuge state for illegal foreigners and already has the largest illegal population in Unites States other than New York. Now starving for billions of dollars, California will have to amend there own enforcement laws to stop the massive migration or pay a heavy price in extorting more money from taxpayers. Then there is always Utah, Texas, New Mexico or even farther states such as Washington. ONE THINGS FOR SURE, THAT THEY MAY PASS SOME FORMULATION OF IMMIGRATION REFORM. BUT AMERICA WILL FIGHT TOOTH AND NAIL THAT NO "PATH--TO--CITIZENSHIP" FOR THOSE WHO CAME HERE ILLEGALLY. I am personally a tea partier a moderate Conservative and definitely not a Democrat and Republicans.-and illegal immigration is the no.1 priority to me, and must be stopped for good.

Californian's are under financial hardship owing to the welfare programs that caters to illegal alien families, and with an outpouring of Arizona's illegals the Sacramento budget will triple in handouts. Californian's, specifically Angeleno's and San Francisco There should be no excuse why FEDERAL SOLDIERS SHOULD BE NOT DEPLOYED TO THE 2000 MILE BORDER. They need to police the border, with the under-manned border patrol and even a poorly funded law enforcement agencies. Sheriffs and deputies that are in a very dangerous area are rudimentary armed, against heinous felons, drug cartels, skin traffickers, smugglers and the flow of unceasing indigent illegal immigrants. LET ME REITERATE, THAT IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT IS ONLY SEEN TO WORK. BUT THE TRUTH IS ITS NOT ENFORCED--THAT RIGHT NOW HOMELAND SECURITY HAS CUT BUDGETS FOR IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT. If you are--NOT--an open border extremist, join the organization that is fighting for our rights, your language, freedoms and liberty at NumbersUSA.

To those that approve this new immigration law.One day you are going to be at a situation not exactly the same but somehow similar , then you are going to remember and regret your behavior towards us all HUMAN BEINGS CREATED BY JEHOVAH GOD....
AN EXAMPLE: EARTH QUAKE What are you going to tell our creator...I’m sorry !! But I hated the Mexicans and all the Foreigners. May god Bless you and I hope he gives you wisdom to understand that what's going on does not have anything to do with IMMIGRATION.....SATAN IS DIVIDING YOU GUYS,, AND YOU HAVE TO PAY MORE ATTENTION TO THAT , than to blame someone.

PS. Remember that when you point at someone ONE FINGER POINTS AT THAT SOMEONE,

With all due Respect: GEORGE JUAREZ …….

I applaud the bill. Washington does nothing about illegals and rewards them for breaking the law. They are filling our
schools, hospitals, and every avenue in this country costing millions of dollars to the cities/states. I wish that South Florida had such a bill where they consume our schools and are financially rewarded for being illegal. STOP
ILLEGALS - send them home and Washington do something. The only way to stop this is by voting. Listen to what the candidate stands for - listen on their policy on immigration and then vote.

I admire the people of Arizona for passing this bill. My wife is Latino and her ancestors came to this country legally in 1840. She and her family detest the criminal invasion we are having by illegal aliens. From everything I have read there are nearly 20,000,000 illegal aliens in this country. The vast majority are from Mexico and Central America. I have also read there are nearly 8,000,000 illegal aliens working in the USA. Approximately 15,000,000 REAL American citizens are unemployed right now. The illegal aliens are stealing their jobs by accepting lower wages under the table in most cases. Many of them work in skilled construction jobs such as carpenter, brick mason, plumber, etc. Some of my neighbors have lost jobs because of illegal aliens. In addition, as tax payers, we pay for their health care, schooling, feeding their children breakfast and lunch, and even housing in some cases. Making them leave this country would open up lots of jobs for unemployed Americans, reduce crowding in schools, reduce the number of gangs on our streets, and reduce crime in our neighborhoods. Another point is a balance of ethnic groups willing to assimilate into our country is a good thing. Allowing millions of one ethnic background to destroy that balance is a very bad thing. I personally do not want to see America turn into Mexico Norte'. I detest having to chose between English and Spanish when I call a business or government office. Kudos to Arizona. I hope my state is next to do what they did. The Democrats and Obama want as many illegals to come here as possible, since they want to have as many low income government dependent people here as they can. That way they can buy their votes with bribes and handouts. After all, what other country can you go to that gives none producers a free cell phone and 300 minutes a month for not working?

I am so proud of Governor Jan Brewer. She is only acting as a responsible Governor for her states legal residents. I am from Michigan and believe that it is time for our Governors in all states to take action against immigration laws that are being reviewed by Washington. I have lived in Michigan all my life, but will move to the safest state for my family. Thank you Governor Brewer.

I really disagree with "Senate Bill 1070". I respect everyone's view but consider the fact that we were all once illegal immigrants ourselves, or were luckily married to a citizen, or, even, were lucky to be born here in America through illegal immigrants. All I'm saying is that Brewer failed to follow the guidelines- Amnesty should have come first. Not a Fact; there are 8 mill, illegal immigrants in this country. But what I hate the most is the fact that people usually assume that their tax money is going into schools-People, most of the illegal immigrants' taxes are not returned so quit whining. Secondly, "15,000,000 real Americans are unemployed", because they look for jobs that do not pay the minimum wage- instead we Americans are responsible for killing our own economy by using up all our amenities even when we don't really need them. Third, Jobs are available but people are not looking or at least trying, and if there aren't any it is because our government are the ones to blame for their corrupted minds. I don't like this law, it will affect the economy as well as America's reputation. know your facts and trust me, we will see how bad and ugly it is going to get down in Arizona. Peace. Kill all racist.

Brittanicus, One day you will offer up supporting information, that is available for scrutiny, for your rants. Until then they will remain in the category of DRIVEL.

Whats not to like ?, this people pay smugglers thousands of dollars and risk their lives to find work in the USA, that money should be paid to the ICE, give them legal residence and a working permit WITHOUT path to citizenship, that way if they commit a crime they could be easily deported because we know who they are and where they live (dont have to guess like in Arizona) they wont be elegible to benefits or welfare relief, so they pay taxes and pay for their own services, also the working permit should be renewed for a fee every year for -lets say the first five years- to make sure they are employed and paying their taxes, we could be making millions on these people...think about it

wow what a law to judge someone on theire color i thought the racist ways where left behind when the usa stoped judging black people but i see the old ways come back and for all you happy with this law well see how long it lasts you heard president obama its wrong and inhumane and if will surely violate something in the constitutions and illegal immigrants dont come here to cause chaos they come here for a better future and remember this europeans came here as immigrants and violated native americans which means they where also illegal immigrants so stop discriminating were all people,bleed the same blood and we all have the right to 3 things life,liberty and the pursuit of happines

How can an officer make a reasonable decision to stop someone without running the risk of imposing on a legal resident or citizen?

People get stopped all the time and asked question by the authorities. I have been stopped for speeding [59 in a 55 zone once], headlight out, tail light out, and not dimming headlights (even though I did). Whenever I was pulled over, I had to provide ID, title, and insurance.

Hmmmm. Well, maybe if someone has no insurance, title, drivers license, and can't speak English -- wouldn't that be a little suspicious? Even if you can speak English, you are not likely to be driving away. But, there are going to be many crying 'racism!'

President Obama says not to enforce the law. Our country's leader whose task it is to enforce the laws. 70% of the voters in Arizona approve of the bill. When are our elected officials going to start listening to its citizens?

NO Carlos,

Most of us came to this country legally. Some, like my ancestors, were forced to come here against their will and worked for free to build this country's economy, agriculture and infrastructure. This same community has again been undermined by blue collar wage suppression, a direct consequence of illegals in this country.

I have known several non-hispanic immigrants who had to leave the country when they were not able to secure visa renewals. An Italian with a popular Tuscan-style pizzeria. A Bangladeshi computer scientist with a business employing 75 U.S. citizens. A researcher from New Zealand. A designer from Sweden. An environmental attorney from Austria. If these educated, law-abiding would-be immigrants were not able to stay to contribute their many talents to our community, why is the hispanic population (who is generally less-educated and less conscientious--my neighborhood's problems with Mexican gangs, litter, tagging, noise and crime are informing my view here) coming from our Southern border given a pass? If I as an American citizen decide I would like a better quality of life in Switzerland I would have to jump through ten times as many hoops as the typical illegal from Central or South America.

Where's my parade? What are my rights?

U R rasists let illegalls stay here

Are you aware that the Arizona law turns every Hispanic in Arizona, including U.S. citizens, into a potential suspect? Do you like the idea of police stopping members of the largest U.S. minority group because of the color of their skin, or their Spanish accent?
Make your voice heard on Arizona Immigration Reform Debate site


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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