Stanford reacts to Arizona law

May 3, 2010, 1:03 a.m.

Some members of the Stanford community are voicing protest against the Arizona immigration law, called the strictest in the United States, signed April 23 by Governor Jan Brewer.

On campus, the chat list of MEChA, a Chicano and Latino student organization, has been active, with members promoting awareness of the law, and sociology Prof. Tomas Jimenez wrote an op-ed in Thursday’s Los Angeles Times in the wake of the law’s passage on comprehensive immigration reform.

Nationally, President Obama has criticized the new law, saying it threatened “to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

The law, known as S.B. 1070, requires immigrants to carry legal documents and allows the police to detain people suspected of being in the United States illegally. The law is set to take effect by August.

S.B. 1070 is causing significant backlash around the country. Arizona is the first state to require immigrants to present identification papers to confirm their legal presence in the United States if questioned by the police. According to the law, failure to carry these papers could lead to a misdemeanor charge.

“The forcing of people to identify themselves begs the question, ‘Are we truly free in this nation?’” said Aracely Mondragon ’13, the co-chair of MEChA. Mondragon is also involved in the Stanford Immigration Rights Project.

Although Brewer said the public must trust the Arizona law enforcement, critics of S.B. 1070 do not see how racial profiling can be avoided.

“The Arizona law essentially says that if someone looks like [they] might be here without authorization, then police are obligated to ask for proof of legal residency…the law is incredibly vague,” Jimenez wrote in an e-mail to The Daily.

“Police are likely to rely on race and possibly class cues, which are poor indicators of legal status and, more importantly, it amounts to racial profiling,” he added.

Jimenez said a belief that immigrants take an undue share of public resources was partly behind the law.

“There is a sense among many people that immigrants are not only taking jobs, but also sucking up resources that are funded with taxpayer dollars. Now, those are both dubious claims, but perception can be reality, especially when people are hurting economically,” Jimenez said.

Another student said undocumented immigrants help American business.

“Any reason given for any strict immigration law is based on fallacy,” said MEChA member Tadeo Melean ‘13. “The people benefiting from illegal immigration are always big corporations and sectors of the economy which are not strictly regulated: agriculture and construction.”

Jimenez said the law will have a difficult time “[being] moved from paper to reality.”

MEChA was set to hold a vigil on Sunday night in White Plaza on campus to raise awareness about the law. At the vigil, students from a variety of backgrounds hoped to exchange their thoughts and experiences with immigration issues.

“This is everyone’s issue,” said Mondragon, who helped organize the vigil. “It is not specific to any one group, since immigrants come from all over the world.”

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