Georgia's legislature passed a bill Thursday night giving law enforcement broader authority to verify immigrant statu...
Georgia's legislature passed a bill Thursday night giving law enforcement broader authority to verify immigrant status, a move inspired by an Arizona law that many Mexicans called 'racist.'
Mexicans might now be reticent about taking that midnight train to Georgia. The state legislature Thursday passed an Arizona-style immigration bill authorizing police to check the passport status of anyone deemed _suspicious_ and forces businesses to do the same with potential employees.
The bill, which Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is expected to sign, is the latest in a wave of immigration reform legislation that is sweeping the US and souring Mexican opinion of America. Prior to the enactment of the Arizona_s controversial SB 1070 one year ago, 62 percent of Mexicans had a positive opinion of the US, compared with 44 percent after the law passed, according to the Pew Research Center.
_I don_t like the climate over there, it_s horrible,_ says Felipe Hernandez, a taxi driver in Mexico City, who recently decided against immigrating to the US because of fears over the new laws.
In addition to Georgia, three more states _ Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina _ are poised to adopt _show me your papers_ laws in coming months. As such laws quietly proliferate in the US, Mexicans are anxiously watching, concerned that the US is becoming increasingly xenophobic. Cuauht__moc C__rdenas, the former mayor of Mexico City and a past presidential candidate, told the Monitor that the Arizona law is _racist_ and that he will be _encouraging the defeat of any and all _show me your paper laws._ _
No less than two dozen states have introduced pieces of legislation with _show me your papers_ aspects, although there is some significant doubt whether they will ever be enforced. Not one state has implemented such laws, and nine states have voted down similar proposals. Court challenges to Arizona_s law have prevented its full implementation, including the provision requiring police to check the immigration status of people they lawfully stop, and Georgia_s law is also expected to be the target of legal challenges.
"Criminalizing immigration will not stop the flow of Immigration," says Avelino Mendez, a lawmaker representing a Mexico City district. "These laws don_t solve anything._
"These laws may change the way we see _el gabacho,' " says Guillermo Rivera, a constituent from Mr. Mendez_s district, using the Spanish slang for Americans. "But it won_t stop us from going there._
Mexicans see US in new light
Polling data does indeed reveal a sharply eroded opinion toward the US. Among 21 nations recently surveyed in the Pew Research Center_s Global Attitudes Project, Mexicans had the largest decline in favorable opinion toward the US, with researchers eyeing the Arizona law as the cause. Such opinions are reflected across Mexican politics. Right-leaning President Felipe Calder__n has said the Arizona law amounts to a tacit acceptance of racial profiling, echoing the sentiments of left-leaning Mr. C__rdenas.
Jamie Juarez certainly agrees with that. A documented immigrant from Mexico now residing in Tuscon, Ariz., his stepdaughter was last August driving on Tuscon_s I-10 with several friends when a highway patrol officer stopped their car, ostensibly for a broken window, and requested their IDs. One of the girls lacked her _papers._ Officials from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) then detained Mr. Juarez_s stepdaughter and two girlfriends.
If Juarez had not rushed to the scene and presented the papers of his stepdaughter, she may have been deported like her friends, who were both sent back to Mexico.
_The officer told me that he didn_t know if they were _terrorists or criminals,_ _ says Juarez, his voice visibly shaken and angry. _This greatly offended me and made me think that this man was racist and shouldn't be working as a police officer. I assume he won't be reprimanded, because Arizona is plagued with problems like these._
Cecilia Wang, a lawyer for the Arizona branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who took down Juarez_s story, calls this a clear case of racial profiling. _What the officer did in this situation, asking for all passengers for identification, falls out of the purview for a traffic stop and was improper. This is why we're concerned about the fate of SB 1070, as this story can become a legal practice._
Deportations for routine traffic violations are very common, says Guadulupe Chipole, director of a Mexican federal agency that provides services to immigrant families. _Many of them complain that only because they were dark skinned, they were stopped by the police,_ she says.
Laws strain state finances
Amid such outrage among Mexicans, some US-based groups are also launching attacks on the laws. The Center for American Progress in Washington has taken a financial angle, asserting that Arizona_s economy would lose $50 billion through the cost of law enforcement and the loss of cheap labor and tax revenue.
_The stated goal of _show me your paper laws_ is to drive the whole undocumented population out,_ says Marshall Fitz, the center_s director of immigration policy. _If you were to succeed with this__ it would shrink their economy substantially and be a windfall for taxpayers and public revenues._
_This ideological swing toward xenophobia is truly beyond rationality,_ he adds.
Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum in Washington agrees _the passage of SB1070 actually harms the economy."
Meanwhile, the Georgia bill that passed this week in the state Senate and House may never actually be enforced, says Azadeh Shahshahani, director of the ACLU_s branch in Georgia. She is _confident that if HB 87 succeeds in turning Georgia into _show me your papers_ territory, it will not withstand legal challenge._
But that doesn_t mean the law won_t first affect Mexican opinion of the US. "By legislating discrimination," the National Association of Latino Elected Officials Educational Fund wrote in a statement Thursday, "this bill would undermine Georgia's history and image."
Such "measures focused on criminalizing migrants open possibilities for undue law enforcement practices and racial profiling," the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta said in a statement earlier this month, highlighting a detrimental affect on "friendship, trade, culture and tourism links."