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The Arizona Immigration Law’s Day in Court Has Passed. So Has Its Day in the Sun.

April 26, 2012 - Posted by Ali Noorani

The following op-ed was published April 26, 2012, in Spanish at El Diario.

By Ali Noorani

What if the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, S.B. 1070, doesn’t matter?

No matter how the court rules, consensus is emerging that Arizona and the states that have copied its discriminatory law are engaging in bad policy and bad politics — the type that could turn neighbor against neighbor and state against state as disparate immigration approaches rattle communities.

The pushback against such policies is coming from a broad swath of American leaders: business executives concerned about such laws’ economic impacts, law enforcement officers who need the trust of the communities they serve, and religious luminaries sick of seeing families and congregations torn apart.

The latter group has communicated a particularly powerful message this week. “Evangelicals are committed to laws that allow us to minister to and love the immigrant,” said the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. “S.B. 1070 not only fosters profiling but also stands in the way of our Christian duty.”

Hear also the words of Galen Carey, vice president of government relations with the National Association of Evangelicals: “The people of Arizona, and every state, deserve a safe and functional legal immigration system, and a sensible plan for those who are already here. The place to work out such a plan is in the Congress and the White House, not in the courts, and certainly not in the 50 state legislatures.”

These leaders recognize that immigration is not and cannot be “us vs. them,” but rather that it is simply “us.” As one nation, we must rise above laws that engender distrust and suspicion.

Residents of Arizona — led by Citizens for a Better Arizona — already have moved in that direction. Even before the Supreme Court decided to rule on S.B. 1070, the bill’s author, Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce, was recalled in November by a 55-44 margin.

The same week, a statewide poll found that 78 percent of Arizona residents would support legislation giving undocumented longtime residents the opportunity to pay a fine, pass criminal background checks, get a taxpayer I.D. number, demonstrate they can speak English — and eventually become citizens.

That’s a far cry from the criminalization of undocumented immigrants woven into Arizona’s enforcement-only law. Clearly, Arizonans are ahead of some of their political leaders in realizing that S.B. 1070 goes too far.

If the court rules in Arizona’s favor regarding parts of the law, copycat laws will go into effect, and elected leaders in still other states could decide to follow suit. But they would do so at their peril, knowing that the vast majority of the electorate will not tolerate hate and prejudice.

It is up to all of us —those who remember coming here from somewhere else and those whose immigration stories have been passed down through generations — to call for the only immigration policy solution that can unite our country as a voice of liberty, equality and fairness: humane reform on the federal level.

No matter what the Supreme Court decides, we must move forward with policies that unite rather than divide.

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