Legalizing Racial Profiling? Arizona Immigration Bill Draws Fire

"Our cities and neighborhoods have turned into war zones," he said. "We have such silly restrictions. We know that what's coming across the border today are smugglers, gang members, drug dealers, bad people."

Controversial Arizona Immigration Bill Awaits Gov. Brewer's Decision

There are about 10.8 million illegal immigrants in the United States and about 460,000 in Arizona, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Border violence has risen so much in Arizona that even Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, called for National Guard troops to be deployed on the state's border with Mexico.

Last month, a rancher was killed in southeastern Arizona. Authorities believe he was shot by an illegal immigrant, possibly someone connected to a drug cartel. Some say his death is what triggered more support for the bill.

Even so, some say the bill is simply inhumane. Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the largest Roman Catholic archdiocese in the country, said Sunday the bill encourages people to turn on each other.

"The tragedy of the law is its totally flawed reasoning: that immigrants come to our country to rob, plunder, and consume public resources," Mahony wrote on his blog. "I can't imagine Arizonans now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of documentation."

If Gov. Brewer signs the bill, Arizona would be the first state to implement such a law.

California attempted to pass a similar measure in 1994 -- Proposition 187 -- that was designed to keep illegal immigrants from using health, education and other social services. Even though it passed, it was struck down by a federal court on the basis of constitutionality.

Similar legal challenges against Arizona are inevitable, Saenz said, and it likely would end up costing the state millions of dollars.

"Arizona is going to face very serious consequences if it enacts it," Saenz said, comparing it to the experience in California, where the legislation was a "tremendously wasteful diversion of resources."

"There was a palpable impact on international trade to California, in particular," Saenz said. "It became clear over time that Mexican companies began to take their commerce through Texas and other border states because of pervasive hostility."

But it's high time states step up to the plate and do something about illegal immigrants, Pearce said.

"I would think this is a great opportunity to codify states' inherent authority," he said. "We created the federal government. We're in charge. Constitutionally we have inherent authority. It's time to step up to the plate and start enforcing the law."

This is not the first time Arizona's state laws have come under fire. In 2005, the state made smuggling humans a state crime, and in 2007, it prohibited employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.

Just on Wednesday, the state House voted for a provision that would require President Obama to show his birth certificate if he wants to be on the state's ballot in the next presidential election.

Meanwhile, protesters are hoping to build grassroots momentum to convince Gov. Brewer to veto the bill.

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