Students Protest Ariz. Law

Arizona’s newest immigration bill — which requires immigrants to carry legal documentation on them at all times — has caused mass protests to break out across the country, including in San Diego. A number of incoming freshmen at the University of Arizona have also repealed their intent to enroll.

SB 1070, or the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on April 23. Failure to produce documentation is now a misdemeanor under Arizona state law. Proponents of the reform argue it was motivated by the current economic crisis, as non-taxpayers place a financial strain on public services like health and education.

The bill stipulates that any illegal immigrant found on Arizona soil is trespassing, allowing officers to request documentation if given reasonable suspicion that someone is an illegal alien. Those who oppose the reform contend that it encourages racial profiling.

In the first version of the bill, officers would be allowed to demand proof of legality upon any “lawful contact” — including incidents such as a civilian asking an officer for directions. However, it was rewritten on April 30 to stipulate that an individual has to first engage in some kind of unlawful action — prompting a “stop, detain or arrest” — before an officer can ask for papers. Executives like Brewer said that this clarification proves that the intent of the act is not to encourage racial profiling.

The legislation has prompted a widespread boycott. Organizations like the American Immigration Lawyers Association — which is based in Washington, DC — have targeted Arizona’s tourist industry by canceling conferences previously held in the state. Independent truckers based in Arizona and California announced plans for a five-day boycott, during which they will refuse to freight goods in or out of the state.

In a letter released on April 29, University of Arizona President Robert Sheldon announced that admits for next year had begun withdrawing from the school, saying they would rather attend institutions outside the state than risk being subjected to racial profiling.

“We have already begun to feel an impact from SB1070,” Sheldon said. “The families of a number of out-of-state students — to date all of them honors students — have told us that they are changing their plans, and will be sending their children to universities in other states.”

Additionally, some critics of the bill — like Rep. Jose Seranno (D-NY) — have called for Major League Baseball to relocate the Major League All-Star Game from Phoenix in response to the new reform, which they perceived as discriminatory.

Some UCSD students joined in the protests as well. According to A.S. Vice President of External Affairs Gracelynne West, immigration-rights activists-held a candlelight vigil by Geisel Library on Monday, just after the bill passed. 15 students also traveled to Phoenix in order to take part in the May Day protests against the new law.

West said there will be a call-in day on Wednesday, when organizers will encourage students to call the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to express their displeasure with Arizona’s new immigration law. West said she hopes that the effort will discourage similar legislation from passing in California.

“What happened in Arizona really sets precedents for what might happen in other states, especially California,” West said. “The call-in … is so she receives the message that students at UCSD are really unpleased with what’s been happening in Arizona. We just want to make sure that —when immigration reform is coming up at the federal level — that [Feinstein] really takes that into account.”

The Arizona bill will go into full effect on August 24, 2010.

Readers can contact Hayley Bisceglia-Martin at [email protected].

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