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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/2/10

Immigrants Have Human Rights

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The ongoing national debate on immigration reached a fever pitch on July 28, when U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton blocked some of the more draconian provisions of Arizona's controversial anti-immigrant law (SB 1070), which was scheduled to take effect the following day.

Judge Bolton blocked a section requiring police officers to question and verify the immigration status of anyone "reasonably" suspected of being an illegal alien. She also blocked a section requiring immigrants to carry their papers at all times.

The ruling is in response to lawsuits by the U.S. Justice Department and a coalition of civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund (MALDEF), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

The coalition's lawsuit challenged SB 1070 on human rights grounds. According to the ACLU, "the law would subject massive numbers of people - both citizens and non-citizens - to racial profiling, improper investigations, and detention."

Fortunately, Judge Bolton gets it.

But the law's proponents apparently don't care about human rights. It seems like they just want to crack down on the brown people. Their fear and bigotry are misplaced, dangerous, and sometimes deadly. And they have already filed an appeal.

In the meantime, human rights groups are weighing in on the case.

Julie Su, litigation director for APALC, commended Judge Bolton's ruling: "We applaud the judge for seeing the imminent danger of having this law enacted," said Su. "SB 1070 presents a distinct and separate immigration scheme that conflicts with federal law and policy, and would have a devastating impact on Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Latinos, and other people of color in Arizona. Indeed, some of those negative effects have already been felt. This ruling makes clear that intimidation of immigrant communities, pretextual stops to ask for 'papers,' and rhetoric about who belongs in Arizona and who doesn't under the guise of enforcing SB 1070 should cease immediately."

But the whole bill must go, said Allison Parker, U.S. program director at Human Rights Watch: "The federal court ruling throws a monkey wrench, at least temporarily, into the worst parts of a discriminatory law," said Parker. "In truth, Arizona needs to repeal the whole thing, and similar bills under consideration in other states should be defeated."

And Lory Rosenberg, advocacy and policy director for refugee and immigration rights for Amnesty International USA, painted a grim picture of the law's implications if ultimately allowed to stand in its entirety: "Laws like SB 1070 don't just threaten human rights and fly in the face of the United States' obligations under international law. They also flagrantly disregard the Constitutional rights of immigrants who have or are eligible for lawful status," said Rosenberg. "What makes this so frightening is that anyone who 'looks like an immigrant' in Arizona, including a U.S. citizen, is likely to be treated as suspicious and will be detained indefinitely while the state conducts a document check."

Like Gitmo in Phoenix.

And such could be the fate of any non-white persons who dare to appear in public in Arizona if Judge Bolton's ruling is overturned.

Hopefully the appeals court will see things from Judge Bolton's perspective, and rights and humanity will again manage to trump bigotry and fear.

And hopefully Washington will soon deter any further Arizona-style state measures by enacting some intelligent and practical immigration reform based on rights, compassion, and opportunity.

After all, the Statue of Liberty is still standing. And she still invites the world to "give me your ... huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
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