At a time when Arizona needs to attract business and boost tourism dollars, Gov. Jan Brewer’s decision to sign a controversial immigration bill gives a doozy of a black eye to the state’s image.
Senate Bill 1070 requires immigrants to carry proof they are in the United States legally, and requires law enforcement to question the legal status of persons they suspect are illegal aliens — raising fears the new law will lead to racial profiling.
Economic development officials are rightly concerned that the backlash over this law will hurt their efforts. Who wants to vacation in or relocate to a state where people of different nationalities are questioned by law enforcement based largely on the color of their skin?
It’s the latest in a long line of PR debacles for the Grand Canyon State. Among them: Gov. Evan Mecham being impeached in 1988 and indicted for misuse of state funds; the 1997 resignation of Gov. Fife Symington amid fraud and extortion allegations; the 1991 AzScam sting in which legislators accepted bribes to legalize gambling; and the 1966 Miranda V. Arizona case that established suspects must be informed of their legal rights when arrested.
This is also the state that decided this month to wipe out current law which makes it a crime to carry a hidden gun without first obtaining a state-issued permit, a measure opposed by the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police whose lobbyist testified the change “will take Arizona back to the Wild West.”
Even before Brewer signed the immigration law, Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva called for business groups to boycott the state for meetings and conferences. Such a boycott wouldn’t be the first time Arizona was shunned and shut out.
In 1982, President Reagan signed a bill making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday, but it wasn’t until almost a decade later that Arizona finally recognized it. In the meantime, the state lost NFL support and Super Bowl XXVII. The game — and the economic boost that comes with a Super Bowl — was to have been held at Tempe’s Sun Devil Stadium in 1993, but was moved to California to protest the state’s failure to recognize the holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader.
Brewer told Capitol Media Services that a business boycott “would be a really unfortunate situation.” But the threat of that — to say nothing of the outcry from the state’s Hispanic citizens, community organizations, religious leaders, and thousands of protesters at the Capitol — didn’t stop her from signing Senate Bill 1070, legislation that President Barack Obama said Friday would violate the civil rights of people.
Brewer called the bill an important step forward in protecting Arizona and its citizens. She pledged to hold law enforcement accountable for any abuse of the new law, and said she has directed the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board to come up with appropriate guidelines for enforcing it.
“I believe every one of us wants to be safe, and none of us wants to compromise on the subject of civil rights,” Brewer said after signing the legislation.
The governor urged Arizonans not to be alarmists, but to be “patient, look and listen” as the law is carried out.
The federal government will be watching too.
Obama has instructed the Justice Department to examine the Arizona law to see if it’s legal. He also said the federal government must enact immigration reform at the national level — or leave the door open to “irresponsibility by others.”
Time will tell if Brewer and the Arizona Legislature have acted irresponsibly with the passage of this law.
That’s why, as the governor herself suggested, we all need to be patient, look and listen to ensure the civil rights of people are not trampled under the pressure to crack down on illegal immigration.