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Archived: Editorial: Did Arizona Start the Reform Ball Rolling?

While the murder of a local rancher may have been the issue that pushed the state of Arizona to pass SB170, legislation to remove all persons without proof of citizenship from the country, that same legislation may now be the catalyst for pushing stalled immigration reform forward.

The legislation says, “Where reasonable suspicion exists that a person is an alien unlawfully present in the United States, when practicable, a reasonable attempt shall be made to determine the immigration status of the person.” It also states that “a law enforcement officer without a warrant may arrest a person if the officer has a probable cause to believe that person has committed any public offense that makes that person removable from the United States.”

On the surface this may not seem too different from how police officers everywhere routinely detain or arrest a suspect. What is different, however, is this legislation seemingly instructs police to single out people based on their appearance, and fails to provide civil rights protections afforded to US citizens, namely the right to procure a lawyer and ask the court for bail.

As a result, there is a high probability of an American citizen being unjustly evicted from his or her own country.
All border states have been overwhelmed by the illegal crossings of human and drug traffickers. The federal government’s inability to put a halt to this type of traffic has caused those who object to the presence of so many non-native born Americans to form very harsh attitudes toward those entering the country without documents, often causing them to see little difference between a drug runner or sex trader and someone seeking a job in a factory to feed his family.

Complicating matters even more are the advocates on both sides of the issue who refuse to accept any thing except winner takes all, a position that does little more than harden peoples’ feelings.

The Arizona law may renew efforts to try to bring some sense of order to our immigration problem. And that is a good thing.  Putting a stop to immigration deportations of non criminal aliens in favor of continued emphasis on deporting all criminal aliens in the country would be helpful since these criminal elements most of the time prey on and abuse the most vulnerable immigrant communities around us.

We believe that it is time for our federal government, president and elected officials in the House and Senate to assert their authority over this issue, and bring about the reform that is so desperately needed. This is not an issue that should be left up to each state. Just as the federal government stepped in to stop state sanctioned segregation and discrimination during the 1960s, it must do the same today regarding immigration.

So, while the Arizona law is objectionable and should not be allowed to stand, the silver lining may be that our elected officials will no longer be able to ignore comprehensive immigration reform.