Home News Arizona Immigration Law: A look at bill's impact 1 year later.
Arizona Immigration Law: A look at bill's impact 1 year later. PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 25 April 2011 12:35

The neighbors pointed at a small green house on the west side of Phoenix and said the man who cut off part of his finger lived inside. Sure enough, a man came out with toilet paper wound around the index finger of his left hand.

He said he had been cutting meat at a restaurant around the corner when he accidently sliced off a hunk of his flesh. More than 24 hours later, blood kept soaking through the toilet paper, and his finger still throbbed. This raised an obvious question: Why didn't he go to the hospital?

"Because I don't have papers," said the man, who would give only his first name, Ramon.

Ramon, 35, an undocumented immigrant from Hermosillo, Mexico, is just one example of how many of the estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona have gone deeper underground to avoid contact with the authorities since Gov. Jan Brewer signed the toughest immigration law in the nation one year ago today.

The law, known as Senate Bill 1070, never took full effect. A federal judge blocked key parts of it, including a controversial provision that would have required police to determine the immigration status of people they encountered during police stops if they suspected them of being illegal immigrants.

Even so, many illegal immigrants, who have lived in the shadows for years to avoid detection, say they are more afraid than ever of being deported. Ramon feared hospital officials might discover he is undocumented and report him to federal immigration officials. Other illegal immigrants randomly interviewed said they now drive as little as possible to reduce the chances of being stopped and questioned by the police. Others said they won't report crimes to avoid unwanted scrutiny.

Brewer, who was in the midst of a tough primary race for the GOP nomination for governor, signed SB 1070 under intense political pressure that stemmed from years of mounting public frustration over illegal immigration and drug smuggling in Arizona, as well as Congress' failure to fix the problems.

The bill cemented Arizona's reputation as the toughest immigration state in the nation and instantly propelled the issue of illegal immigration back into the national spotlight.

The law also whipped up anti-illegal-immigration fervor that spurred lawmakers in several states to introduce similar legislation. But it also generated a powerful backlash from immigrant, Latino and civil-rights groups, which led to lawsuits and economic boycotts that damaged Arizona's image and cost the state millions of dollars in lost tourism and convention revenue.

There is no hard data on how the law has affected the state's economy because undocumented immigrants often work off the books for cash and those employed in the "aboveground" economy often get jobs using fake papers, which makes it difficult to distinguish them from legal workers.

However, the law did spur hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of immigrant families to leave Arizona. While the initial wave seems to have subsided, many immigrants say they are still planning to leave, either because they are afraid of being deported or because they can't find jobs due to the economy and tougher immigration enforcement.

Supporters of SB 1070 are claiming a victory, saying preventing illegal immigrants from coming to Arizona and scaring away those already here is the intention of the law.

"I think the greatest effect of 1070 is its deterrent effect," said state Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, a main sponsor of the bill. "And the credit for its strong deterrent effect must be shared by its authors and supporters like myself, with its detractors who so grossly misinterpreted that law that it probably scared a lot of illegal immigrants from coming here in the first place or staying if they were here."

Fear of the police
Daniel Chamizo manages a mobile-home park and apartment complex near 31st Avenue and Van Buren Street. Many of the families who live there are immigrants, legal and illegal, from Mexico.

He said many no longer want to report crimes, afraid police will start asking immigration questions and they will end up being deported. So they call him instead.

"They come to me and say a lot of things. They tell me about people coming to sell drugs or consume drugs," said Chamizo, 48, sitting behind a cluttered desk in his office. "I tell them, 'I am just the manager. I can't really do anything. Call the police.' But they are afraid."

A few days earlier, Chamizo said, someone came to his office to tell him there was a dead dog in a nearby park. Chamizo suggested they call an animal-control officer, but they wouldn't.

"They are afraid of any kind of law enforcement," he said.

Illegal immigrants have always been afraid to call the police, said Sgt. Steve Martos, a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department. It's hard to tell if the problem has gotten worse, he said, because police don't know when people are not reporting crimes if they aren't calling. But he acknowledged that "there is a perception that it has."

Carlos Garcia, an organizer with Phoenix-based immigrant-rights group Puente Arizona, said SB 1070 has driven a wedge between immigrants and the police even though the law never took full effect.

"It created the fear, and I think it's continued," Garcia said. "It created more space, more distance between the community and the police."

Those fears have been intensified, Garcia said, by other ongoing crackdowns, among them federal programs that enlist the help of local police to identify and deport illegal immigrants.

Earlier this year, state Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, the main sponsor of SB 1070, also pushed for a new round of immigration legislation that sought, among other things, to require hospital personnel to notify immigration authorities of patients they suspected of being in the country illegally and also sought to end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants.

Those proposals were voted down by the Senate, but they added to the fears, Garcia said.

"It just made life more difficult for folks," he said. "But because there are so many ties to the community, most people didn't leave (the state). But they kind of prepared themselves. Now, they are just not leaving their house. A lot of the community we talk to, they leave to take their kids to school, they will go to work, and then they will just stay home. They are afraid to go out, and they are afraid to have any contact with police or any sort of authority."


Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/election/azelections/articles/2011/04/23/20110423arizona-immigration-law-impact-year-later.html#ixzz1KYdLleKi

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