Arizona, a state not most often talked about in the news, has been put on the spot lately. The reason? A new law, SB 1070, which gives Arizona officers the authority to stop and detain people if they have reason to suspect that someone is here illegally. It gives them, also, the authority to ask for legal documents to show that those people are here in the United State legally and, if unable to produce such documents, gives the officers the authority to arrest them. However, it should be noted that the Arizona state law does say, many times, that at no time is it ok for an officer to stop someone based solely on the color of their skin-there must be a primary offense for which that person is stopped. At that time, there still needs to be a reasonable cause for the officer to ask for such documents. Even with all these precautions in place, there is still much uproar about this new legislation. Many believe that it will lead to racial profiling, especially among Latino people, who are already under much scrutiny, especially in the southwest United States. However, major proponents for the new law say that it is merely a tool needed for the state to do what the federal government has failed to do, and that is keep their borders closed to illegal immigration. This new law has sparked not only many debates, but has even caused other states to look at their own immigration laws. One of those states is Michigan, where Representative Kim Meltzer (R-Clinton Township) has proposed a law similar to Arizona's.. Rep. Meltzer has suggested legislation to crackdown on illegal immigration here in the state of Michigan. She believes that law enforcement here too, should also have the authority to arrest illegal immigrants and the authority to ask for legal documents to prove citizenship to the United States. Like the Arizona bill, persons would first have to be pulled over for a primary offense, like speeding or running a red light. At that point, when an officer comes up to the window, if they have reason to believe that the person(s) inside the car are not legal immigrants, then they would be able to ask for such documents. However, Rep. Meltzer differs slightly with Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona, because Meltzer will allow a Michigan drivers license as sufficient proof of citizenship. But Meltzer does agree with Brewer on one thing: this legislation is a tool, something that needed to be done because the federal government is standing by doing nothing. It is true that although immigration security is a federal government issue, it is constantly being passed on to the states as their burden. This is becoming taxing on the state and on the legal citizens in the state of Michigan. There is no federal funding for this legislation; in fact, as of late, it has been said that the federal government might actually challenge the Arizona state law. The bill is unlikely to pass in Michigan but who is to say that the proposed Michigan law would not be met with the same federal response.
It is clear, though, from both states that racial profiling will not be tolerated. That is one of the biggest fears from opponents of the measures, because this type of legislation is directly aimed at certain people. In the southwest, it is directly aimed at Latinos. In the Midwest, it is aimed at illegal immigrants from Canada. The question is, how are we going to be able to determine what is and what is not racial profiling? Will those who are being accused of illegal immigration be given the benefit of the doubt if they just happen to have forgotten their driver's license but they are legal citizens? How will these laws be enforced? There are still more questions that this legislation asks than it answers.