Arizona Immigration Laws Are Not Racist But They Are Corrupt

Editor's Note: Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce was the originator of the draft legislation that later became Arizona SB 1070, not the Corrections Corporation of America, as the author originally suggested. CCA did have a representative at the ALEC meeting where model legislation similar to 1070 was drafted, but it did not write the language.

With the upcoming Supreme Court decision on Arizona’s immigration laws, a recent poll by CBS News showed that in a nationwide survey of 976 adults the majority thought Arizona’s immigration laws were “about right.” In the poll, 52% of Americans thought the law was right while 11% thought the law did not go far enough. These statistics leave a clear minority of 33% of people that do not support Arizona’s immigration law. That said, this sample size is too small to portray an accurate view of how Americans feel about Arizona’s immigration laws – SB 1070 and HB 2162.

SB 1070 is the law implemented in 2010 to allow police officers to request immigration documentation if a person is searched for any other criminal offence. This law caused outrage and was criticized as racial profiling. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R)passed HB 2162 that forbid police officers from pulling any suspected illegal immigrant over for “traffic” violations or other offense based on race, ethnicity, or nationality.

As racist as these laws seem, the statistics show that corporate interests have little influence on American politics. A corporation trying to use the detention of illegal immigrants could only muster a small percentage of people to believe the government-imposed immigration laws of Arizona will solve the problems caused by illegal immigration.

The private prison company, Correction Corporation of America (CCA) may have tried to influence Americans to support strict immigration laws to receive government funds by housing detained illegal immigrants. To get the maximum number of detained illegal immigrants, Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce (R) passed SB 1070 and HB 2162.*

CCA played off of the fears and discrimination of the Arizonan people. For the last 15 years since the idea of militarizing the border first began, Arizona has struggled with the problems of crime caused by illegal immigration. They had the most illegal immigrants from Mexico which led to  high  human and drug trafficking rates. Most of these crimes resulted in threats on police lives from Mexican drug cartels. As a result, Arizonans’ association of Latinos with crime turned into a deep rooted discrimination against Latinos. Arizonans wanted an end to illegal immigration and CCA decided to use the situation to their advantage.

CCA promised to pay lobbyist to support anyone voting for SB 1070 and HB 2162 if Sen. Pearce proposed the laws, and Pearce accepted. These laws – SB 1070 and HB 2162 – would then increase the number of illegal immigrants detained through racial profiling because the laws allow police officers to detain almost any Latinos.

In the end, it was not the government that wanted to address the immigration issue. It was the government that wanted political support. It just so happened that some Americans thought that these strict laws would solve illegal immigration when they are mainly designed to profit private prisons.

However racists and xenophobic these laws may be, and Arizonans interpret them to be, Americans overall are not as xenophobic. Only 508 out of 300 million Americans support immigration laws that violate human rights. For the past three years, forty-three% of Americans have supported illegal immigrants staying in the country to work and apply for citizenship. This percentage suggests that Americans do not support the detainment that SB 1070 requires, proving that the xenophobic and racial aspect of SB 1070 are a minority trend. SB 1070 and HB 2162 were only a corporate ploy that did not pan out correctly. American values and policies are still in the hands of the hands of the people. 

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Jacinda Chan

Jacinda graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a dual bachelor's degree in rhetoric and political science. She is currently pursuing a masters in international criminal justice at the University of Portsmouth. She is fluent in German. Since then, she has done various research and writing internships covering Turkish politics at the Diplomatic Courier, writing reports on legal systems in the Middle East, and researching the entire human rights history of Iran and Egypt. At the Levin Institute, she wrote news analysis about human rights in Latin America.

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