The atmosphere was as hot as the Arizona desert as Pierce College hosted a discussion panel on immigration.
The panel featured five guests who discussed the law and ramifications of illegal immigration. Dr. John Lucas, a political science instructor at Pierce, served as moderator.
The central focus of the discussion was Senate Bill 1070, an anti-immigration law that took effect in Arizona earlier this year. The bill passed the legislature on April 13 and was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer 10 days later.
The law requires all immigrants who are living, working and travelling in Arizona to have official immigration documents on their person at all times. If a person doesn’t have these documents, he or she must be able to produce a driver’s license, state identification card or any other documents that indicates he or she is lawfully in the United States.
The primary question that drove Oct. 27 discussion was, “Is SB 1070 constitutional?”
In favor of the bill were panelists Jesse Hernandez, chair of the Arizona Latino Republican Association and Mark Spencer, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association. Both men flew from Arizona to sit on the panel.
Opposed to the bill were David Ayala-Zamora, organizing director of One America; Luis Fraga, a political science professor at the University of Washington and Magdaleno Rose-Avila, author and executive director of the social justice Fund.
The discussion began with two minutes of personal introduction from each panelist. Next, panelists were then granted 10 minutes each to state their reasonings for supporting or opposing the bill. Following this, each panelist was then granted two minutes to summarize his argument. Finally, members of the audience were allowed time to pose questions to the panel.
Hernandez said that SB 1070 is constitutional, as the U.S. Constitution allows states to enforce immigration laws. The son of Mexican immigrants, Hernandez also rejected the idea that the law promotes racial profiling.
“Not once, but four times, does the bill ban racial profiling,” Hernandez said.
“Illegal immigration is not crimeless,” Hernandez said as he went on to discuss some of the effects of illegal immigration in his industry.
In addition to serving as chair of the ALRA, Hernandez also works in the banking and real estate industries.
Ayala-Zamora, an immigrant to the United States who was once undocumented, argued the bill is not constitutional and that Arizona’s immigration laws could not rule differently than federal immigration law.
“Under this law, I could be searched and seized,” Ayala-Zamora said, “which is against the First Amendment.”
He further argued that the illegal immigration bill will deplete Arizona’s resources.
“Arizona’s jail population is increasing just for illegal immigration,” Ayala-Zamora said.
Spencer said that affected communities were experiencing a time of crisis. He offered statistics on what illegal immigration has done to society in Arizona and argued that 1070 was not just necessary but constitutional.
“It mirrors federal law,” Spencer said. “It allows us to assist our federal colleagues in enforcing federal immigration law.”
After the discussion, Spencer went on record to say that proactive legislation has helped curb illegal immigration and that SB 1070 is an extension of this trend.
Avila argued that 9/11 brought persecution against Hispanics and Muslims, which in turn fueled many incorrect ideas about minorities. He discussed the realities of crimes committed by illegal aliens, drug and gun supply, and the purported burying of dead bodies in southwestern deserts.
Regarding the issues of illegal aliens and the drug trade, Avila posed a question.
“Some of the best marijuana in the world is grown in Canada. Why aren’t we restricting the border with Canada?” Rose-Avila asked.
Fraga’s key points were on the politics of the immigration debate.
“Our system is broken, but few people are willing to propose a bipartisan solution to fix it,” Fraga said.
He also refuted the idea that President Barack Obama has been idle on the issue.
“Republicans have blocked Obama’s immigration (reform proposals),” Fraga said.
Although Fraga opposes SB 1070, he supports comprehensive immigration reform and said most Americans do as well. He cited a path to citizenship as the idea with the broadest support.
The discussion lasted for about two hours. After the discussion was adjourned, members of the audience were invited to talk with the panelists one-on-one. The panelists answered individual questions, as well as personally elaborated on their viewpoints.
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