Immigration bill promotes racism

By By John Stafford

By John Stafford

Senate Bill 81, an illegal immigration bill that passed during last year’s legislative session, will take effect July 1. The bill attracted those who wanted to get tough on immigration and quickly gained overwhelming support throughout the state.

However, as appealing as the concept might seem, it is a smoke screen to hide tactics of fearmongering and discrimination to support an anti-immigration agenda. The bill basically gives every police officer the authority to act as an Immigration and Naturalization officer, in essence elevating the status of the police to that of judge, jury and executioner in regard to deportation. As if undocumented individuals weren’t already struggling with frequent and blatant racial profiling and a general mistrust of the police.

It is only going to further the marginalization of an already alienated community to have a police force that has the power to pull over any vehicle it deems suspicious and make the car’s occupants jump through hoops to prove their status in the country. Local cops with the ability to enforce federal immigration laws and deport illegal aliens will have to toe the line of profiling people simply because they look illegal or speak Spanish. This is a dangerous concept. In this sense, a third generation American of Hispanic descent could indeed be deemed suspicious by this new police-INS force and would be more likely pulled over solely for this reason. The bill’s price tag of $1.8 million also calls into question its necessity in a state that has gone from a $1 billion dollar surplus to looking for $1 billion in budget cuts since the bill passed.

A similar immigration law in Oklahoma, which served as a model for its Utah counterpart, has been involved in an ongoing court case that puts both bills in question. The argument being used against the similar H.B. 1804 is that it conflicts with the U.S. Constitution and federal law.

The notion that the dispute in Oklahoma will soon be brought to Utah courts was suggested by Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, who hopes to see the bill’s July implementation pushed back.

“It’s a matter of practicality, budget and constitutionality,” she said, referring to the state’s budget woes and rights guaranteed to undocumented immigrants. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, these rights include the right to life and security of the person, including freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention, and protection against arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence.

It is clear that Utah and the United States need immigration reform and regulation, but fixing the system’s flaws doesn’t need to come at the cost of constitutional rights. If it serves as a mechanism for systematic profiling and racism, it is unacceptable.

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