1. News & Issues

Arizona Senate Bill 1070

An Overview of the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act

By

On April 23, 2010 Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 into law. The controversial bill gives Arizona law enforcement the authority to stop people whom officers have "reasonable suspicion" of being in the country illegally, detain these individuals while verifying immigration status, and arrest undocumented immigrants for transfer to ICE custody. The bill, also known as the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act" also makes it a crime to be in the state illegally and to provide transportation to someone you know is undocumented.

Problems with SB 1070

Those who oppose the bill are concerned about possible civil rights violations, and worried that the legislation will lead to racial profiling -- a major concern for Arizona's approximately 30% Hispanic population and larger mixed race population. The bill does not list the characteristics officers will be looking for to determine "reasonable suspicion." This issue was brought up during an interview after Gov. Brewer signed the controversial bill. She was asked, "What does an illegal immigrant look like?" The governor seemed uncomfortable when she answered, "I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like," but said that this will be part of the training officers will receive and the determination will be made "without discrimination," a point that is stated in the text of the legislation:

"This act shall be implemented in a manner consistent with federal laws regulating immigration, protecting the civil rights of all persons and respecting the privileges and immunities of United States citizens."

Supporters of SB 1070

Supporters of the bill feel that federal immigration enforcement is ineffective and Arizona is simply filling a void left wide open by federal immigration policies. A lot of Arizona residents are tired of dealing with illegal immigration -- an issue they feel hurts the economy and drives up crime. Gov. Brewer drove this point home:

"We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act. But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation."

Reactions to SB 1070

President Obama, who was attending a naturalization ceremony for U.S. service members when the bill was signed, called Arizona's bill "misguided" and instructed his legal team to "closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also called the bill "misguided", adding:

"Our nation has been sustained and strengthened by immigrants from generation to generation and that is why today's action in Arizona is misguided and irresponsible. Families have come to the United States hoping for a better life and striving for a brighter future. We must do everything in our power to build on that tradition by passing comprehensive immigration reform and ensuring our nation's cherished civil rights."

Homeland Security Secretary and former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano criticized the bill, saying:

“The Arizona immigration law will likely hinder federal law enforcement from carrying out its priorities of detaining and removing dangerous criminal aliens. With the strong support of state and local law enforcement, I vetoed several similar pieces of legislation as Governor of Arizona because they would have diverted critical law enforcement resources from the most serious threats to public safety and undermined the vital trust between local jurisdictions and the communities they serve. I support and am actively working with bipartisan members of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level because this issue cannot be solved by a patchwork of inconsistent state laws.”

Senator John McCain agreed that the legislation is "controversial," but the man who led Congress during the last immigration reform push in 2007 and who has always supported stricter border security made it clear that Arizona had no choice but to pass SB 1070:

"The people in Southern Arizona have had their rights violated by the unending and constant flow of drug smugglers and human traffickers across their property. If you don't like the...legislation that the legislature passed and the governor singed in Arizona, then carry out the federal responsibilities, which are to secure the border. You probably wouldn't have had this problem."

Where it Stands

The new law should take effect 90 days after the legislative session ends, meaning by August 2010. However, a number of groups have already committed to join efforts and challenge the legislation in court.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.