Arizona's Harsh New Immigration Law Already Under Attack

Arizona is already under fire for signing into law a new immigration law that President Obama characterized as "misguided" and that would "undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans." Obama said he instructed the Justice Department to "examine the civil rights and other implications" of the new law.

The new immigration law requires state and local law enforcement to question individuals about their immigration status if the officer has a "reasonable suspicion" that they are undocumented. An individual who cannot provide proof of legal status would be subject to arrest. The new law essentially compels law enforcement to conduct racial profiling of all people in the state, and will lead to people being questioned and detained for looking foreign.

What would cause an officer to have reasonable suspicion that a person is "undocumented"? The color of their skin? Their accent? They way they are dressed? The work that they are doing? The kind of car they drive?

When I first heard about this new law, I was reminded of a public service announcement that ran soon after the September 11 attacks, called "I am an American". Created by the Ad Council, it features Americans of different races, accents, ages, and dress stating "I am an American." It's a reminder that we really cannot determine who is American and who is undocumented, simply from appearances.


As an immigration lawyer, I've met U.S. citizens of all different ethnicities, occupations, and varying levels of English proficiency. I've also met undocumented immigrants with white collar jobs, who look and talk like they could be from the Midwest (where I am from.) When I meet a potential new client, I cannot tell whether they are a U.S. citizen, a U.S. permanent resident, a legal nonimmigrant, or an undocumented immigrant, until I hear their story. I wonder how the Arizona police will decide who creates a 'reasonable suspicion" of being undocumented?

Immigration Reform / by Michelle Gee