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Arguing Immigration Law: Arizona vs United States

The United States is a country born of immigrants. With the exception of full-blood Native Americans, our ancestors arrived from someplace else. Think about your own ancestors: From where did they emigrate? When did they immigrate? What did they hope to achieve? What did they hope to escape? 

043012-1 For generations, people have come to the United States in search of economic, political, and religious freedom, and in pursuit of happiness.  However, this may be changing. A report released by the Pew Research Center on April 23, 2012 found that “the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped and may have reversed.” 12 million Mexican immigrants have come to the United States in the past forty years. It is the largest wave of immigrants from a single country in United States history. What factors have contributed to its end? Put another way: Why are Mexicans no longer immigrating to the United States? Why are more and more Mexican immigrants returning to Mexico?

The answer, in part, may lie in the second immigration story to hit newspapers last week. On April 25, 2012, opening arguments began before the Supreme Court in Arizona vs United States. It is a case with national, state, and personal implications, and it is all about illegal immigration. In it, the federal government is challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, otherwise known as Senate Bill (SB) 1070.

Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law two years ago, on April 23, 2010.  Some parts of the law went into effect on July 29, 2010. However, a judge ordered an injunction that blocked its most controversial pieces from being enforced until the legal questions are answered. For the past two years, SB 2010 has traveled through the court system. Now proponents and opponents wait to hear the Supreme Court justices’ decision. Their decision will impact how illegal immigration is enforced nationwide.

What does SB 1070 say? What are the national implications of a state law? Why was it challenged? Why is it controversial? Is it prejudicial or protective? Decide for yourself; learn more about the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.

Inside SB 1070

As a border state, Mexican immigration rates are important to Arizona’s officials and citizens. Illegal immigration rates may be particularly significant. The debate about illegal Mexican immigrants is steeped in history. Arizona has long grappled with how to address illegal immigration and how to handle illegal immigrants. Carlos Velez-Ibanez explains the history of Mexican immigration in the United States. Watch the AZCentral video, Lessons of History: Economic Motivators, found in the left margin. Summarize the main points. The Center for Immigration Studies presents some statistics to help explain Arizona’s struggle.

043012-2AZCentral.com maintains a database of news resources related to immigration, including SB 1070. This will be your first stop in examining SB 1070. Begin by watching the video overview, Politics and Protests: Disputing Fairness. It can be found in the left margin.

Perhaps the best way to understand how SB 1070 came to be is to take a step back in time. Examine AZCentral’s immigration timeline to understand better Arizona’s long battle over immigration. Select a measure used early in the fight against illegal immigrants and list reasons pro and con: How would this measure help prevent illegal immigration? What arguments might opponents have against the measure? Draw from this timeline reasons for and against SB 1070 and enter them on a positive/negative graphic organizer, or a fishbone graphic organizer. When is a Supreme Court ruling expected? How do Carlos Velez-Ibanez’s points about how economics affect immigration connect to SB 1070? Record your reactions and questions to the images and measures shared in the timeline.

One reaction you might have is, “Tell me more about the sections of SB 1070 that Judge Bolton issued injunctions against.” To learn more about the questionable sections, read analysis of key passages. Click on each yellow box to read summaries from Judge Bolton’s ruling. What additional reasons for and against SB 1070 does this reveal? Add them to your graphic organizer. Explain how federal and states’ rights are at the heart of this legal battle. Advanced students might choose to listen later to the opening arguments (or to read the transcript) of the Supreme Court hearing. (It runs 1:20:20 but a short snippet provides a fascinating glimpse into Supreme Court proceedings.)

043012-3 If upheld, what would SB 1070 mean to illegal immigrants living in Arizona? What would itlook like? Read a series of scenarios to get a better understanding of what is at stake on a personal level. One scenario: three teens are playing basketball in a public park located neighborhood with a high illegal immigrant population. Can a policeman question them and ask them their immigration status? View all 13 scenarios by using the ‘next’ button above the scenario title. Explain which, if any, of these scenarios are particularly worrisome. What is your response to two scenarios? What questions about SB 1070 do they inspire?

View quotes from both sides of the issue. Select two, one you agree with and one you disagree with, to record and respond to. Return to your graphic organizer to add additional information.

Outside Arizona

SB 1070 is a state law; however, if upheld, its impact will be felt nationwide. Several other state legislatures have similar laws. Those laws will stand or fall according to the Supreme Court’s SB 1070 ruling. Visit the Associated Press interactive on illegal immigration to view a map of other immigration laws. How much access should illegal immigrants have to jobs, education, and health care? The answer depends largely on the state in which you live. Create a spectrum where one side represents full access and other opposite end represents no access. Chart how much access illegal immigrants in different states have to education, jobs, and healthcare. Are there any geographic trends that you notice about illegal immigration laws?

043012-4 How important is illegal immigration to the United States economy? Earlier, Carlos Velez-Ibanez referred to the Mexican-United States economy as an “integrated” one. View the labor force tab to see what percentage of each state’s workforce is made up of illegal immigrants. Which states rely most heavily on illegal workers? What percentage of their workforce is comprised of illegal immigrants? What are the illegal immigrant population and workforce in Arizona? What percentage of the labor force in your state comes from illegal immigrants?

Alabama is one of the states that passed similar illegal immigration laws. Open the Alabama Impact tab to view four short videos. Each video explores the effects of Alabama’s new law.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is unabashedly opposed to the SB 1070. It is one of the agencies that filed a suit against Arizona to halt the enforcement of SB 1070. Their infographic, What’s at Stake: SB 1070 at the Supreme Court, helps explain the national implications of the law.

What do you think of SB 1070? Which side of the ballot box would you cast your vote? Return to AZCentral to view a survey and compare your opinion to others’.