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Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Special to AOL News (April 28) -- After decades of failure by the federal government to properly secure the border, Arizona lawmakers, led by state Sen. Russell Pearce, have answered the call.

Responding to the demands of their constituents who want immigration enforcement, they approved SB 1070, a law that requires state and local law enforcement to protect the interests of Arizonans if the federal government won't.

The legislation declares "attrition through enforcement" to be the official policy of state and local government agencies in Arizona. This policy will make it difficult for illegal immigrants to live and work in Arizona. Illegal immigrants already living there are also more likely to leave (self-deport), and it creates disincentives for more to come here illegally. And, according to a recent Rasmussen Reports poll, 70 percent of Arizonans support the law.

Unfortunately, this sensible law has been met with hysteria and deliberate distortion by advocates for illegal immigrants who are already frustrated that President Barack Obama isn't moving quickly enough to enact a sweeping amnesty. As it gains national and international attention, it's important to cut through the distortions and deliberate misrepresentations and focus on what the law actually requires. Here are the main myths:

Racial profiling. The most common misrepresentation of SB 1070 is that it requires police to engage in racial profiling. In reality, the law specifically prohibits profiling people based on appearance or other characteristics. It requires police officers, who form a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is an illegal immigrant during a lawful stop, to determine the person's immigration status. A prime example of reasonable suspicion might be the inability of an individual to produce any valid U.S. identity documents. In addition, the law focuses on illegal immigrants who have committed more serious offenses by requiring police to check the immigration status for all people arrested and authorizes law enforcement agencies to transfer verified illegal immigrants into federal custody.

Additional police powers. Despite the furor of the illegal immigrant advocacy network, SB 1070 doesn't give police officers any additional power to stop or pull someone over. Police will still need to abide by lawful contact as they do now. Law enforcement still needs a legitimate reason -- the commission of another infraction such as speeding -- to justify a stop.

And the law is predicated on the protections of the Fourth Amendment, which guard against unreasonable searches and seizures. It does not mean that police will immediately ask for immigration papers (something resident immigrants are already required to carry under federal law).

As they do now, officers will go through a mechanical and lawful process of asking for identification. Only after a thorough process of following protocol will a police officer be required to ask about immigration status and then only if he or she has reasonable suspicion the person may be an illegal immigrant. Even then, the law prohibits law enforcement from considering race, color or national origin as part of reasonable suspicion.

The enactment of S.B. 1070 underscores the need for the federal government to secure the border and enforce our laws throughout the nation. If the Obama administration had been doing its job protecting the interests and security of Arizonans, there would have been no need for the law.

The vast majority of Arizonans simply want the government to enforce our laws, and Gov. Jan Brewer and the Arizona have stepped in to do the job that Washington won't.

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