Mexican opinion of US dwindles amid spread of Arizona-style immigration laws
Georgia's legislature passed a bill Thursday night giving law enforcement broader authority to verify immigrant status, a move inspired by an Arizona law that many Mexicans called 'racist.'
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Jamie Juarez certainly agrees with that. A documented immigrant from Mexico now residing in Tuscon, Ariz., his stepdaughter was last August driving on Tuscon’s I-10 with several friends when a highway patrol officer stopped their car, ostensibly for a broken window, and requested their IDs. One of the girls lacked her “papers.” Officials from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) then detained Mr. Juarez’s stepdaughter and two girlfriends.Skip to next paragraph
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If Juarez had not rushed to the scene and presented the papers of his stepdaughter, she may have been deported like her friends, who were both sent back to Mexico.
“The officer told me that he didn’t know if they were ‘terrorists or criminals,’ ” says Juarez, his voice visibly shaken and angry. “This greatly offended me and made me think that this man was racist and shouldn't be working as a police officer. I assume he won't be reprimanded, because Arizona is plagued with problems like these.”
Cecilia Wang, a lawyer for the Arizona branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who took down Juarez’s story, calls this a clear case of racial profiling. “What the officer did in this situation, asking for all passengers for identification, falls out of the purview for a traffic stop and was improper. This is why we're concerned about the fate of SB 1070, as this story can become a legal practice.”
Deportations for routine traffic violations are very common, says Guadulupe Chipole, director of a Mexican federal agency that provides services to immigrant families. “Many of them complain that only because they were dark skinned, they were stopped by the police,” she says.
Laws strain state finances
Amid such outrage among Mexicans, some US-based groups are also launching attacks on the laws. The Center for American Progress in Washington has taken a financial angle, asserting that Arizona’s economy would lose $50 billion through the cost of law enforcement and the loss of cheap labor and tax revenue.
“The stated goal of ‘show me your paper laws’ is to drive the whole undocumented population out,” says Marshall Fitz, the center’s director of immigration policy. “If you were to succeed with this… it would shrink their economy substantially and be a windfall for taxpayers and public revenues.”
“This ideological swing toward xenophobia is truly beyond rationality,” he adds.
Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum in Washington agrees “the passage of SB1070 actually harms the economy."
Meanwhile, the Georgia bill that passed this week in the state Senate and House may never actually be enforced, says Azadeh Shahshahani of the ACLU’s branch in Georgia. She is “confident that if HB 87 succeeds in turning Georgia into ‘show me your papers’ territory, it will not withstand legal challenge.”
But that doesn’t mean the law won’t first affect Mexican opinion of the US. "By legislating discrimination," the National Association of Latino Elected Officials Educational Fund wrote in a statement Thursday, "this bill would undermine Georgia's history and image."
Such "measures focused on criminalizing migrants open possibilities for undue law enforcement practices and racial profiling," the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta said in a statement earlier this month, highlighting a detrimental affect on "friendship, trade, culture and tourism links."
IN PICTURES: The scene at the US/Mexico border