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In hostile territory

HILLARY DAVIS Sun Staff Reporter | Posted: Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Arizona's anti-illegal immigration law is to one side unconstitutional and a temptation for racial profiling, to the other side a remedy to an economic issue and supportive of federal law.

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, debated the merits of the law that is still referred to by its legislative shorthand, SB1070, to a packed room Monday night at the High Country Conference Center in Flagstaff.

The debate was the first in a university-sponsored series discussing the controversial law. Although the talking points were familiar, the debate was notable for recruiting a proponent of the law to defend it in a city where public discussion has largely been officially disapproving of the illegal immigration crackdown.

Saenz, whose organization has filed suit against the law, said SB1070 is "obviously unconstitutional" because immigration is a federal issue -- and that if states had their own immigration laws, the nation would be fractured.

He was also skeptical that racial profiling would be avoided, despite language in the law that prohibits police from solely considering race when deciding to question somebody's residency.

Saenz said being an illegal immigrant is a status crime, not an act crime. So if an immigrant's covert entry into the United States or the moment they overstayed their visa is unwitnessed, then what can be observed -- appearance -- is what leads authorities to suspect somebody's immigration status.

"When it comes to a status crime, you have no choice but to turn to racial profiling," he said.


The event was mostly collegial, although Vaughan endured the occasional verbal interruption. Protesters also held up signs as she spoke and muffled boos leaked from the 150 people or so in attendance.

Vaughan acknowledged that the law could have been worded better, and that it might overreach. But she said it couldn't be unconstitutional because it supports and mirrors existing federal law.

She said the U.S. can't deport every illegal immigrant, but it also cannot accept that illegal immigration is a force of nature that cannot be controlled.

"The key here is to change the incentives that are at play," she said.

Saenz said that if SB1070 mirrors federal law, there's no need to be redundant. But more so, federal means federal.

"That means states -- stay out," he said.

Vaughan said that undocumented immigrants take jobs that Americans could do. Saenz disputed the desire among Americans to do physical, low-paying agricultural work, for example, but Vaughan countered that a steady stream of undocumented workers willing to do the work in less-than-ideal conditions means that employers have no incentive to make the jobs more attractive.

She also said that low-wage jobs mean the workers can turn to taxpayer-funded welfare systems, at least through their American-born children.


Before the debate, members of the NAU debate team demonstrated a brief examination of the laws. Also, about 15 protesters lined a lobby stairwell to protest Vaughan's presence and support for SB1070 with signs and chants like "No human is illegal" and "Repeal 1070."

Kathleen Peters, a graduate student studying race and gender history, wore a shirt that said "Repeal" in bold letters. As a member of the Repeal Coalition, she supports the abolition of "anti-immigrant" laws.

In a globalized society, nationalism isn't needed, she said. Jobs and products flow across borders, and so should people, she said.

"We find that the laws are misguided, often racist and don't get to the core of the issue," she said.

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Saenz said that if SB1070 mirrors federal law, there's no need to be redundant. But more so, federal means federal. "That means states -- stay out," he said.

That's what's freakin' messed up. Someone needs to tell this moron that if the fed won't do the job then the STATES HAVE TO!! grrrrrrr....

Actually she is correct, in that "Jobs and products flow across borders" but she failed to preface it with the word

 "LEGAL" jobs and legal products. For example does she believe that the "flow" of "illegal drugs" across our borders is also okay?And finally the tern "illegal" applies to that "human's" status which is very proper...



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