US District Judge Susan Bolton’s ruling that the police could implement with immediate effect, the provision of Arizona’s contentious immigration law, that allows enforcement agents to question the immigration status of those assumed of being in the country illegally has caused outrage and concern among civil rights groups.
A day after the “show me your papers” provision took affect protest were held around Phoenix to protest against the ruling with civil right activists alleging that it would lead to organized racial profiling.
On Wednesday around three dozen activists picketed outside a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement chanting “No papers, no fear.” Carlos Garcia, an organizer with the immigrant rights group the Puente Movement, said that they were asking the people not to be afraid and not to cooperate with the immigration enforcement efforts, even if they were in the country illegally.
However, the new ruling has ushered in a feeling of trepidation and fear among the illegal immigrants, who are now more wary and fearful that they could be caught and either deported or jailed.
Tempe resident Beatrice Jernigan said that some of her friends who were in the country illegally are very afraid, “They don’t know what’s going to happen. They’re more cautious,” she said. “Some parents who are illegal immigrants are not allowing their kids to participate in after school sports.”
Bolton said the law’s opponents fears were unfounded and that they were indulging in meaningless conjecture and the racial profiling claims were not justified. She said that if anyone could prove otherwise she was open to challenges, but only if the claims can be established. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering a request to halt the provision.
Meanwhile as issues are being sorted out an education campaign for illegal immigrants, asking them to keep their mouths shut if they are apprehended, is gaining ground.
Leticia Ramirez a 27-year-old from Torreon in the Mexican state of Coahuila is advising people who are living in the country illegally, like she does, that they should divulge no information save name and date of birth if they are caught. Moreover they should not carry any papers on their person that could reveal their identity, especially their place of birth.
“We want to teach the community how to defend themselves, how to answer to police, how to be prepared, and to have confidence that they’re going to have help,” she said Ramirez.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency that verifies people’s immigration status for local officers, said that the new ruling has not seen an increased number of calls for immigration checks and assistance, showing that the new ruling has not become a catalyst for indiscriminate checking.
On the contrary a hotline operated by civil rights advocates says they have received many enquires from people who want to know what their rights are if their immigration status is questioned.
The success of the new law is uncertain and Republican Gov. Jan Brewer says the law may not cure the state’s immigration woes, which is notorious as the country’s busiest illegal entry point, but it could force the federal government to act on immigration reform.
Meanwhile civil advocates are asking police departments not to enforce the provision as that will prevent immigrants from reporting crimes. Not enforcing the law could expose the agencies to lawsuits for delegation of responsibility. It’s a dilemma that is hard to resolve for the enforcement agencies.