Ms. Christine Walsh
3 December 2012
As the “melting pot” of the world, the rich and unique culture of the United States can be attributed to the fusion of traditions and values brought by the waves of immigrants who sought to attain the American dream. President John F. Kennedy once remarked in his book A Nation of Immigrants that “every ethnic minority, in seeking its own freedom, helped strengthen the fabric of liberty in American life...We see it in religion, in politics, in business, in the arts, in education, even in athletics and in entertainment. There is no part of our nation that has not been touched by our immigrant background.” With the proposal and ratification of Senate Bill 1070 in 2010, the State of Arizona has endangered the virtues of tolerance and self-determination that have allowed America to prosper for centuries. This controversial bill comes as an attempt by the state Senate to create stringent legislation against migrants in order to combat against high levels of illegal immigration, an issue that they believe the federal government does not adequately address. Under the original provisions of the bill, it was to be made unlawful to live in or hold a job in Arizona without proper documentation; police officers were given the unprecedented power to make warrantless arrests on those suspected of having committed a crime, at some point or another, that would constitute grounds for deportation; and lastly, law enforcement officials were given the discretion to stop any individual based on the mere suspicion that they were an illegal immigrant (Howe). In June of 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the only original stipulation of the bill that met constitutional standards (and ironically, the most controversial) was the requirement of police officers to make a “reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested if there's reasonable suspicion that person is in the country illegally” (Rau). Not since the oppression of African-Americans in the South has a particular race’s civil rights been so greatly jeopardized in the United States. With that being said, the question then becomes: to what extent is the implementation of this bill a reflection of racism toward Latinos and the population’s shift toward xenophobic tendencies? I believe that this bill is an overt exemplification of the prevalence of racism throughout most of Arizona and that it will ultimately create irreparable damage to society. In addition, by ratifying such controversial legislation, the state not only enables the racial animosity in Arizona’s population, but also encourages its propagation.
In order to understand how Senate Bill 1070 is reflective of the ubiquity of racist sentiments in Arizona, one must observe the general public’s attitudes toward the Latino population before the bill’s conception. Between 2006 and 2009, researchers from Arizona State University conducted a lateral study of roughly 3000 participants in order to investigate the public’s attitude toward undocumented Mexican immigrants. After four years of research the researchers yielded disconcerting results as with each passing year, xenophobic attitudes increased towards illegal aliens (Diaz et al. 306). The most notable trend of this study was that the animosity felt towards immigrants increased at a rate directly proportional to the level of increased economic slump from the national recession that had begun in 2008 (Diaz et al. 307). From this study it is clear that indications of fiscal uncertainty (raised unemployment rates, decreased GDP, and etc.), resulted in Mexican immigrants becoming “scapegoats of social discontent” (Diaz et al. 309). Furthermore, in a separate socio-economic study documenting the relationship between the state of the economy and levels of tolerance towards “outsiders,” Stephan found that the restriction of jobs leads to a great decline in the