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Immigration SB1070

Crime argument used on both sides of immigration debate

Supporters of Arizona's new immigration law say it's designed to reduce crime in the state, but opponents say just the opposite will occur.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Backers repeatedly have cited the killing of two Phoenix police officers by illegal immigrants since 2007, or the recent slaying of a cattle rancher near the Mexican border by a drug smuggler. State Rep. John Kavanagh, a co-sponsor of the law, said of illegal immigrants, "They bring a lot of crime with them." On Friday, that argument got more momentum when a deputy sheriff was wounded in a gun battle with men suspected of being drug smugglers from Mexico.

"It may be safer in Beirut than Phoenix," Mark Spencer of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Assciation told the Times, citing a report that some illegal immigrants were selling grenades on the black market.

Despite some high-profile cases, violent crimes in Arizona decreased in 2007 and again in 2008, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Those opposed to the law, which makes it a state crime to lack immigration papers and requires police to determine whether people they stop are in the country illegally, say it will cause crime to increase, at least among illegal immigrants.

Many law enforcement experts agree that the victims of crime by illegal immigrants tend to be other immigrants. The new law will discourage those who are in the country illegally from cooperating with investigators for fear of being deported.

"No one's going to call the cops," Alfredo Gutierrez, a former state Senate majority leader who opposed the bill told the Times. He said law-abiding immigrants of all types were fleeing the state out of fear of being subjected to racial profiling.

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"They're getting rid of the folks who would report the crooks. The crooks are staying. This is like heaven for them."

Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris, who opposes the law, told the Times the action is more about politics than protecting citizens.

"Saying that if you get rid of the illegal immigrants, you'll get rid of 80% of the crime, which I've heard, that's not true. All you have to do in Arizona is come out with anything that's anti-immigrant and you will be in good shape in the polls."

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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