This is a post from last June when there was a similar bill to 1070 in the legislature and it didn't pass at the time. I bring up some points which I think are important regarding the wider strategy of the state. The federal government may attempt to justify their actions by distinguishing "criminal aliens" from others in order to ease migrants' allies' worries, but clearly any undocumented migrant in AZ could be considered a "criminal alien". We don't know yet how they will determine who gets this label.
Immigrants-as-Trespassers Law Closer to Passing
Seriously, this could be the most f-ed up thing that happens this year, as far as state legislation goes. A bill that Arizona Senator Russell Pearce wrote (SB1175) would make it so undocumented immigrants' existence in this state would be considered trespassing, and would also prevent any policy that restricts the police or other state agencies from enforcing federal immigration law. This bill just passed in the senate this week.
This means that undocumented immigrants' presence in the state would cause them to be breaking a state law. Although i think it's a stretch and might be unconstitutional, the idea is to override the federal immigration law, as far as enforcement goes. As long as police attempt to enforce federal law, they are on shaky ground, but they can much more easily enforce state law. This is what arpaio has been doing by enforcing the smuggling law, the employer sanctions law, and other such laws to go after undocumented immigrants). Although his actions are controversial and he does say that he is enforcing federal immigration law, his primary means of attacking the immigrant community is by enforcing (though many would say inappropriately) the state laws.
Pearce's bills aim to create more crimes out of the actions (or mere existence) of undocumented immigrants so they can more easily be arrested and removed. He wrote a bill (SB1337) that would make a class I misdemeanor out of not having a state-issued drivers' license (you have to be legal to get a legal one), which is in the legislature at the same time as various state police departments are discussing not recognizing the Matricula Consular, the ID issued by the Mexican government. Additionally, another bill (SB1177) would make it a crime to solicit for work.
The wider picture involves a new ICE program called "Secure Communities" which will target "criminal aliens" by linking up various law enforcement and immigration databases to be accessed when a person is in police custody. The new and existing laws and policies would give the police cause to arrest, detain, and check the databases on the suspect, and since undocumented immigrants would then have charges against them that they wouldn't otherwise have had, they will more likely be face the consequences of being labeled "criminal aliens".
Clearly "criminal alien" will mean nothing different from "illegal alien", or to us, "undocumented immigrant" because anyone without papers could be categorized as a "criminal alien". The criminal alien term will be used to make the general public feel that the right people are being deported. However, just as previous ICE raids have been purported to target dangerous criminals, they have in fact caught in their nets mostly people without criminal records. Now, creating more people with criminal records will justify various actions against the undocumented community.
If you like this post, you might also like Satire for Russell Pearce.
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