Tamar Jacoby, president, and CEO of ImmigrationWorks USA analyzes the political repercussions of Arizona’s recently passed immigration law.
What a difference a few months make. As recently as March 2010, Arizona was still just a state — not yet shorthand for America’s ever-widening divide over illegal immigration. The passage of Arizona SB 1070 has transformed the national immigration debate, fueling passion and intensity and hardening arguments to the point that there’s almost no point in talking anymore — people on both sides are that entrenched. In a radical departure from settled law, SB 1070 makes illegal immigration a state crime in Arizona — until now, it has been entirely a federal matter. Even more controversially, the measure authorizes and in some cases requires local police to detain people they think may be unauthorized. A devilishly ingenious, and disingenuous, piece of lawyering, the legislation is designed to appear reasonable and pass the test of constitutionality, but it gives police far-reaching power to harass unlawful immigrants with the goal of driving them out of the U.S. — a strategy the law’s framers call “attrition through enforcement.”