Local Activists: Rage Has to be Tempered With Reason

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    A firestorm of outrage over illegal immigration has spread far beyond Arizona.

    Legislatures in fifteen other states -- including California -- have bills pending that would follow Arizona's lead in granting controversial police powers.

    That Arizona law, SB 1070, essentially has been put on hold by federal court order until further rulings on constitutional challenges.

    Local Activists: Rage Has to be Tempered With Reason

    [DGO] Local Activists: Rage Has to be Tempered With Reason
    A firestorm of outrage over illegal immigration has spread far beyond Arizona.

    Ultimately, the case is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Meantime, the measure has become a template for a growing posse of state lawmakers.

    Angry rhetoric was hurled from opposite sides of Front Street in downtown San Diego last May 1st, in the wake of the Arizona legislature's passage of SB 1070.

    "Go back to Mexico!" shouted one of dozens of demonstrators who gathered in support of SB 1070.

    "We ain't goin' nowhere!" came the response from an SB 1070 opponent.

    Local human rights activists say the rage has to be tempered with reason.

    "We need to look at how immigrants contribute to this society," says Pedro Rios, San Diego field director for the American Friends Service Committee.  "We need to look at ways of insuring that human rights become the center and the focal point of addressing the immigration debate."

    It's a debate that's simmering in 15 states where legislation modeled after SB 1070 has been introduced by lawmakers who argue that if 'The Feds' can't protect the border, someone has to police up the fallout.

    But can those bills even begin to address the broad range of factors behind illegal immigration?

    "At this point, so many people have come here not across the border -- but by overstaying their visa.  Or subverting our flawed visa system," observes David Shirk, Ph.D., director of the University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute.

    Whatever the federal courts decide, the situation 'on the ground' seems something only Congress can resolve -- if there's a resolution to be had amidst partisan politics.

    "There are a lot of things not to like about Arizona's law," says former federal prosecutor John Kirby, now an attorney in private practice.  "But putting that aside, you can't have a patchwork of different regulations.  That's why the federal government deals with what happens to people that aren't citizens."

    At an appeal court hearing in San Francisco last November, a 3-judge panel indicated it might allow police to demand immigration papers from people 'reasonably suspected' of being in the country illegally.

    Those suspects could not be arrested or prosecuted under state law, the justices suggested, but could be referred to U.S. authorities for deportation.

    A formal ruling is still pending.