Arizona Immigration Law


Illegal immigration is one of the problems facing many countries around the world. The United States of America is home to more than ten million illegal immigrants. Most of these immigrants come from neighboring Mexico. The states along the US-Mexico border are under social and economic pressure due to the high number of illegal immigrants. One of the states along this border, Arizona has enacted a law that criminalizes illegal immigration. This research paper will look at the recent developments in Arizona and the debate that this law has sparked.


According to George Borjas, the department of Homeland Security estimated in 2003 that the population of illegal immigrants in the state of Arizona was 300,000 (Borjas, 2010). The number has risen markedly since then and Arizona has the highest number of illegal immigrants in the United States of America. Borjas claims that Most of the illegal immigrants came into the state after 1986 amnesty for the illegal immigrants and the population of aliens has gone up since then and the high number of aliens in Arizona is alarming. Most of the illegal immigrants are Mexicans who cross over the porous US- Mexico border to run away from the harsh realities of life in their home country. By 2009, the number of illegal immigrants in the state of Arizona had reached 700,000. The state of Arizona has suffered for a long time because of the presence of aliens in the state. Law enforcement agencies have been working day and night trying to apprehend illegal immigrants along the rugged US- Mexico borders but the determination of the illegal immigrants to get into the United States of America.

In his article titled the economics of immigration, Borjas writes that the addition of the National Guard soldiers at the Mexico-US border and the use of enhanced technology has done little to remedy the situation (Borjas, 2008). That is why the state of Arizona has decided to usurp the role of the federal government in protecting the people by implementing stricter measures that will deter illegal immigration and scare away illegal immigrants from the state. That is why the state has adopted a controversial new law that stipulates that it is a crime to be in the United States of America illegally which means that all illegal immigrants are criminals. Given that Arizona is the leakiest portion of the more than two thousand-mile borders, the continued entry of illegal immigrants hurts the social and economic status of the state. Drug trafficking has risen and insecurity in the state has reached alarming proportions that is why there has been a huge debate over the immigration policy in the state. This research paper will therefore address the new immigration law in Arizona. The paper will start by looking at the recent developments revolving around this law before looking at the future potential consequences of the law. The paper will then focus on the debate between the proponents and those opposing this law before concluding.

Recent developments

The new Arizona law on immigration, which starts operating on 29th July, directs the law enforcement officers to enquire about the immigration status of a suspected immigrant especially if the immigrant is suspected to be in the country illegally. The Arizona law, though not different from the federal has received a lot of opposition, especially from human rights activists because it has some controversial clauses. According to John Brewer, one of the most controversial clauses, a complete departure from the federal version is the requirement that every illegal immigrant be apprehended and departed and this would lead to a complete overhaul of the system because this will mean that all the illegal immigrants will be treated as criminals (Brewer, 2010). This law has been challenged by the justice department in the state which argues that the law is unfair to innocent immigrants who do not threaten national security. The department argues that law-abiding illegal immigrants should be left alone because they do not pose any security threat to the residents of the state of Arizona. Brewer supports the Justice Department which maintains that the state law on illegal immigration should concentrate on weeding out the socially harmful immigrants like the drug traffickers, members of illegal gangs, and all those who pose a threat to the security of the people of the United States of America especially the residents of the state of Arizona.

Homeland security officials have also condemned this law saying that the state government would be acting unfairly if it embarks on a mission to arrest and deport everyone who is in the state without the necessary immigration paperwork. The move by the state officials to enact this law will also compromise humanitarian interests and foreign relations which the American congress has strived to safeguard. However, the proponents of the Arizona law say that this law is the most reasonable way to start dealing with the thorny issue that has rocked the United States of America for decades. Charles Cents is a proponent of the law and in his article on the new law; Charles claims that there is no big difference between the Arizona law and the Federal Law (Cents, 2010). According to him, the problem is that many states have not enforced the law either due to lack of resources or lack of enthusiasm. The federal government has since dismissed the Arizona state law on illegal immigration saying that this law tries to usurp federal authority meaning that it is unconstitutional. The role of protecting the borders and the citizens of the United States of America is undertaken by the federal government and not the state government. However, the state of Arizona has blamed the federal government for sleeping on the job forcing it to step in and protect its citizens from illegal immigrants. Opponents of this law have criticized it claiming that the law might lead to discriminative racial profiling.

According to Fox News, the US government through the justice department has instituted a lawsuit against the state of Arizona for enacting the immigration law that will support a massive crackdown on all illegal immigrants (Fox News, 2010). The justice department believes that this law does not agree with the federal law. This law, according to the justice department will allow the police to harass those people who cannot prove that they are in America legally. The justice department which filed the suit in the federal court in Arizona claims that the move by the state of Arizona to crack down on illegal immigrants is unconstitutional and is trying to stop its enactment at the end of July.

According to the lawsuit, the federal immigration laws and the constitution of the United States of America do not allow individual states to develop immigration regulations. This lawsuit by the Justice Department challenging the enactment of the immigration law in Arizona has led to the emergence of a heated political debate, especially on how the country should handle more than 12 million illegal immigrants. Most of them are from Mexico and Latin American countries.

Fox News reports that The president of the United States of America, Barrack Obama has denounced the new law. However, many American citizens have applauded Arizona’s efforts, despite the wide criticism that the movie has received from the Hispanic groups (Fox News, 2010). The opposition to the Arizona move by the federal government which was democratically elected two years ago is politically motivated because the Democrats want to gain the support of the Hispanic community during future elections. Civil rights groups have also criticized the move by the state of Arizona saying that it is the toughest in the United States of America. These groups claim that the movie is racist because it targets the Hispanics who form the largest percentage of illegal immigrants in Arizona. The civil rights groups have also sued the state of Arizona. They want to stop the state from enacting the law. One of the human rights groups that have opposed the new immigration law in Arizona is amnesty international which claims that the law has very many loopholes that may lead to discriminative instances of racial profiling. According to the Huffington Post, racial profiling occurs when a person is stopped by law enforcement officials based on their color or origin and this violates the fundamental rights of the people (Huffington post-2010). The law also encourages arbitrary arrests and detention of the suspects who may not prove that they have the necessary paperwork immediately. Every resident of the United States regardless of their status of residence is entitled to the fundamental right to liberty meaning that they have the freedom from arbitrary arrests and detentions.

James Webber, legal analysts explain that Article 9 of the ICCPR, which the United States of America is a signatory, protects migrants regardless of their status from any unwarranted harassment and violation of their fundamental human rights (Webber, 2010). Interestingly enough, the police department in Arizona has also opposed the law saying that this law will create a schism between the police and the residents. Amnesty International has been appealing to the state of Arizona to repeal this statute and include chapters that safeguard the human rights of the immigrants. According to amnesty international, due process during arrests and deportations should respect the human rights of the immigrants.

Future potential consequences of the law

The immigration law passed in Arizona in April and which will become operational in July is one of the strictest in the United States of America it may have future consequences which may affect the relations between the people and the state authorities. James Webber, an opponent of the law says that this law has placed a very heavy burden on the people, requiring them to carry documents wherever they go to prove that they are either citizens of the United States of America or they are legal migrants (Webber, 2010). The law gives the police powers to apprehend anyone suspected to be in the country illegally (New York Times 2010). This law has placed a big burden on the Hispanic immigrants in Arizona and the police department reacted strongly against this law because it fears that it will create a wedge between the police and the people. This is a very big burden that the police have to carry, given that most of the illegal immigrants are not criminals but law-abiding citizens. The first consequence of this law is that the efficiency of the police department will be adversely affected because of the rift created between the law enforcement officials and the people. The police are supposed to protect the people and they count on the cooperation of the people in their investigation of crime in the state. The rift created between the people and the police will compromise this cooperation and this will lead to an upsurge of insecurity in the state.

Webber also claims that the law may also have a future consequence on the welfare of immigrant families. The immigrant families might become vulnerable to mistreatment and other forms of social injustices because they cannot turn to law enforcement officials for help because of the fear of arrest and deportation. This means that the illegal immigrants will become vulnerable to crime, racism, domestic violence, and child abuse because they cannot turn to the law enforcement authorities for intervention (Webber 2010). The law, therefore, denies them a chance to survive and enjoy life because their human rights including the right of security and civil protection have been compromised by the new law. Most of the illegal immigrants are law-abiding citizens who came to America in search of safety and opportunity and such an inhuman law that exposes them to unsafe living conditions is unjust. The law is very punitive and the legislators in the state of Arizona need to pay attention to the future consequences of this law especially on the political scene.

The law could have negative political ramifications on politicians like John McCain who have fervently supported the law (Webber, 2010). The Hispanic community is a very important electoral bloc in any form of election and this law which is seen to target the Hispanic community may cost some politicians of the Hispanic support they previously enjoyed. That is why the democrats, led by president Barrack Obama have voiced their opposition to the law because they know that if Arizona succeeds in enacting this law, more states that have been under the pressure of illegal immigrants might follow the Arizona example and this may have nationwide political consequence given that the Hispanics provide swing votes in very many states during the national and state elections (Cents 2010).

Finally, the law might affect the relations between the immigrants and the natives of the United States of America. According to Webber, most of the natives of the United States of America hate immigrants. The immigrants from Mexico affect resource allocation, availability of opportunities, and compromise social amenities. They are also responsible for the rising insecurity in the country. This means that the law might trigger racist attacks in the state-directed at the illegal immigrants because the natives know that the law is on their side. Illegal immigrants cannot report racist incidents to law enforcement authorities because this may mark the end of their residence in the United States. This means that the law poses a security risk for the immigrant families and the law may also strain the already tense relations between the natives and the Hispanic community.

The debate

The move by the state of Arizona to enact laws that allow the police to arrest and detain suspected illegal immigrants and the subsequent decision by the justice department to sue the state of Arizona has sparked a huge debate in the United States of America (Arpaio, 2010). The most prominent people involved in the debate are President Barrack Obama and his opponent in the 2008 presidential elections John McCain, who is the Republican senator for Arizona. According to Brewer, Obama has vehemently opposed the Arizona legislation saying that it does not target the illegal immigrants per se but it targets the Hispanic community in Arizona. The president claims that the law is racially punitive and will strain relations between Americans and illegal immigrants because the law will motivate the natives to rise against the Hispanics (Brewer, 2010). Obama also claims that the law violates international immigration laws. He also asserts that the law is unconstitutional in the United States of America. Other opponents of this law assert that the law needs to be repealed so that it can target criminals and other lawbreaking illegal immigrants (Brewer, 2010). They claim that is unethical and immoral to punish hardworking immigrants who have already married Native Americans, established businesses and careers, and have even given birth to children who have become American citizens meaning that if the law is enacted it might disrupt the lives of many Americans in Arizona. This means that the law will also have a significant impact on the Native Americans who depend on the illegal immigrants or those who have family relations with the immigrants.

On the other hand, Senator John McCain supports this lawfully and is on record telling the illegal immigrants to pack up and go. The senator claims that illegal immigrants are a liability to the welfare of the state from an economic, social, and security perspective. In his support for the law, McCain claims that the state is acting because the federal government has failed to protect the state from the inflow of illegal immigrants from Mexico due to the porous nature of the US-Mexico border and lack of proper federal regulations to deal with the illegal immigrants.


Arpaio, S. (2010). Arizona Immigration Law. Web.

Atkinson, B. (2010). High court to take up Arizona immigration law. Web.

Borjas, G.J. (2008).The economics of immigration. Journal of Economic Literature, v 32 pp. 1667–717ent.

Brewer, J. (2010). Arizona immigration law. Web.

Cents, C. (2010). Arizona Immigration Law. Web.

Fox News (2010). – Obama Assails Arizona Immigration Law. Web.

Huffington Post. (2010). Arizona immigration law. Web.

New York Times. (2010). Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration. Web.

Webber, J. (2010). Department of justice vs. Arizona. Web.

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