Arizona immigration law should incite outrage

As college students, we grapple with striking that balance between idealism and pragmatism when we articulate our views on the political and social issues of the day. We are criticized for failing to see the full picture and middle ground, yet our voices are a sound of hope that represent the full, dreamland potential of our nation. Deep down, we know that it would be impossible for all our stated goals to be realized, but we speak with the expectation that our voices will help guide those in power to make conscientious decisions that are able to strike that balance our nation so desperately needs. A recently enacted immigration law has disregarded the ideals of our nation, trampled upon pragmatism and resulted in a despotic law that ignores the most basic rights of others.

Last Friday, Arizona Gov. Janice Brewer signed into law a controversial bill passed by the state legislature that requires all police officers, “when practicable,” to demand immigration papers from anyone whom they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is in the country illegally. Furthermore, the law requires all those who have legally immigrated to the country to carry their papers with them at all times, or else they will be in violation of the immigration law.

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Governor Brewer, a Republican, has assured the enraged public that under no circumstances would she condone racial profiling. But it’s nearly impossible to prevent racial profiling when the premise of the law itself is ultimately centered on racial profiling. The word “reasonable” is one of the most ambiguous words in policymaking and is the layer of ice on a slippery slope that enables the government to strip Americans of their inalienable rights. For in this situation, what constitutes as reasonable suspicion? Is it the color of someone’s skin? His accent? His profession? Perhaps it’s the sound of the Mexican music that emanates from his family’s home? It is hard to conjure up any genuine circumstances that would rouse enough “reasonable suspicion” to provoke a city police officer to demand the immigration paperwork of a person.

The reality is that we live in a racial society, and the probability that a law like this can be enacted without phenotypic judgment at the hands of the government is bleak. No one is questioning the need for immigration reform, but this law is racist at its core and makes a mockery out of the founding principles of the United States. While the ultimate solution for immigration reform will continue to be polarized along party lines, the situation in Arizona is not a political issue—it is a human issue. Our fellow citizens—neighbors who have spent years filling out paperwork and passing tests to legally obtain citizenship—will be forced to legitimize their presence in a country that they rightfully call home.

At Wash. U., the student body has successfully spearheaded dialogue and movements on many social and political issues, but immigration reform has yet to take center stage. Whether it is because we think it only tangentially impacts us or because there has never been an impetus to spark campus-wide discourse is irrelevant. Let this backward law be our call to action. We have a responsibility to the people in Arizona and to our fellow immigrant neighbors in St. Louis to speak out against what we know to be wrong. We need to let the government know that such a racist law will not be tolerated in our country. We need to ensure that this Arizona law will only serve to spur meaningful dialogue and suitable, balanced policymaking on immigration reform. Let’s make Arizona the shining example of what should not happen with immigration reform.

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