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Border Roundup: SB 1070 has unexpected political fallout

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Border Roundup: SB 1070 has unexpected political fallout

  • A surveillance tower on the U.S. side of the border, seen from Nogales, Son., in 2009.
    jonathan mcintosh/FlickrA surveillance tower on the U.S. side of the border, seen from Nogales, Son., in 2009.

Racial profiling and SB 1070

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that he would pursue a lawsuit if SB 1070 resulted in racial profiling, reported the Los Angeles Times:

Holder said the U.S. had to take a variety of factors into account when drawing up immigration laws, including international relations and national security. "And it is the responsibility of the federal government, as opposed to states doing it on a patchwork basis," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "It doesn't mean that if the law, for whatever reason, happened to go into effect, that six months from now, a year from now, we might not look at the impact the law has had" and determine if there had been racial profiling, Holder said. "And if that was the case, we would have the tools and we would bring suit on that basis."

The release of the training materials used by law enforcement officials in Arizona for SB 1070 has led to another lawsuit, reported the Arizona Daily Star:

Officers aren't supposed to use a person's race to determine whether there's reasonable suspicion they're in the country illegally.


"It's like having a law that tells police to go out and arrest all children but to not use the fact that a person looks like a child," Los Angeles-based attorney Peter Schey, lead counsel for the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit, said Saturday.

"Rather than training police officers about who is and who is not really deportable, the training materials focus on vague and ambiguous factors, such as a person's dress or limited ability to speak English or demeanor, whatever that means," Schey said. "An average law enforcement officer using those standards is inevitably going to focus on a person's physical appearance or race while being sure not to say that in his or her report." Schey estimated that 2 million of the nation's roughly 12 million illegal immigrants are not eligible for deportation because they're in the process of seeking legal status.

Racial profiling is not unconstitutional, said University of Arizona law professor Gabriel Chin in the Washington Post. Writing with Kevin R. Johnson from the UC-Davis School of Law, Chin analyzed the issue:

In its challenge to Arizona's controversial immigration law last week, the Justice Department argues that the state law conflicts with federal law, intruding on federal power and ability to regulate immigration. For many Americans, however, the lawsuit is needed because of concerns that Arizona's legislation, S.B. 1070, will lead to police harassment of people, particularly those of color, who cannot prove they are in this country legally. Yet for all the controversy over those concerns, few are talking about the real legal issue underlying the law. Supporters and opponents of S.B. 1070 assume that racial profiling is unconstitutional, largely because many Americans believe that it ought to be. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has approved the racial profiling permitted -- indeed encouraged -- by S.B. 1070.


In a 1975 case regarding the Border Patrol's power to stop vehicles near the U.S.-Mexico border and question the occupants about their citizenship and immigration status, United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, the high court ruled that the "likelihood that any given person of Mexican ancestry is an alien is high enough to make Mexican appearance a relevant factor." In 1982 the Arizona Supreme Court agreed, ruling in State v. Graciano that "enforcement of immigration laws often involves a relevant consideration of ethnic factors."

An earlier report from on explored the issue:

The Arizona law also prohibits state or local officials from prosecuting illegal immigration “to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.” As Chin and three other Arizona law professors wrote in a recent report: "Since federal law permits race to be a ‘relevant factor’ in determining reasonable suspicion for stops and inquiries, the combined effect of these provisions may be to require state actors to use race to the full extent permitted by federal law."

According to the Supreme Court case United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, "Mexican appearance" can be a factor justifying an immigration stop. But 24 years later the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in United States v. Montero-Camargo, ruled that “Hispanic appearance is not, in general, an appropriate factor” for determining suspicion, especially in areas with large Hispanic populations. “This makes it more complex whether race can be a factor in an immigration stop in the Ninth Circuit’s jurisdiction, which includes Arizona.” Johnson told us.

Immigration in politics

The federal lawsuit challenging SB 1070 may stall efforts to reform the federal immigration system, reported the Arizona Republic:

Although national public support for Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 is significant, most Americans are ambivalent about immigration and really just want the problem fixed in a realistic way, public-research experts say. But the Justice Department's decision to try to block the controversial state law could make any type of comprehensive immigration solution even more elusive. The hot-button issue has stymied Congress for years - Sen. John McCain's support for reform nearly cost him the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 - and the divide has only gotten deeper.

The potential effects of the immigration issue on the elections in November became the focus of a meeting between Democratic governors and White House officials, reported the New York Times:

In a private meeting with White House officials this weekend, Democratic governors voiced deep anxiety about the Obama administration’s suit against Arizona’s new immigration law, worrying that it could cost a vulnerable Democratic Party in the fall elections. While the weak economy dominated the official agenda at the summer meeting here of the National Governors Association, concern over immigration policy pervaded the closed-door session between Democratic governors and White House officials and simmered throughout the three-day event.

The Arizona law has had some unexpected political fallout. Republican gubernatorial candidate Buz Mills dropped out of the primary race Tuesday, citing the furor over SB 1070 as the reason, reported

"SB 1070 has regrettably taken the focus off of job creation and fixing the state budget," Mills said in a statement. "So even though the chasm between (Gov.) Brewer's policies and mine is dramatic, SB 1070 has politically mitigated those issues."

Immigration has proved to be a divisive issue not only along party lines, but also within the Democratic Party in Arizona, reported the Arizona Daily Star:

If you were looking for a political wedge issue that could work to the advantage of the GOP, you could hardly do better than immigration, which has left a sniping and divided Democratic Party in its wake. It wasn't so at first. Democrats hung together in opposition to SB 1070, sticking to the general theme it doesn't do anything to really secure the border while opening up a Pandora's box of civil-rights violations.

But then came polls showing the law had a wellspring of support, followed by boycotts and a federal lawsuit - areas that also don't poll particularly well among the general public. And soon came a fraying between the progressive wing of Democrats and those walking centrist tightropes while trying to hang onto swing seats. Bob Westerman, chairman of the local GOP, said his party plans to use the immigration issue "to the max." Democrats have been getting mileage out of it, too. But rather than going after Republicans, they're going after each other.

The sniping between Democrats is evidenced by Attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate) Terry Goddard's urging U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva to end his call for a boycott of the state over SB 1070, reported Thursday.

Gov. Brewer and Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano met behind closed doors to strike a deal on immigration and border issues, reported Capitol Media Services:

An aide to Janet Napolitano said the homeland security secretary asked Brewer during a half-hour, closed-door meeting to actively support the request by President Obama for Congress to provide an immediate infusion of extra funds to boost staffing for the Border Patrol and sister agencies.


But Brewer, in turn, made a request of her own: She wants Napolitano to do what she can to get the state more of what it's owed under the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. That program requires the federal government to reimburse states for the cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants who are convicted of state crimes. And close to one out of every seven inmates in Arizona prisons is an illegal immigrant. But the state never has received its full share.

An analysis by the Arizona Republic of the economic costs of SB 1070 measured the potential effect of the law on: government spending on incarceration and education; wages and prices; boycotts and 'buycotts'; and healthcare.

The director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that a uniform federal policy of secure borders coupled with a way for immigrants to work legally is what the United States needs, reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

National immigration news

Professional baseball players may boycott next year's All-Star Game set to be held in Phoenix, reported the Arizona Republic.

The Obama administration is raiding company records to find those who employ illegal immigrants, reported the New York Times:

The Obama administration has replaced immigration raids at factories and farms with a quieter enforcement strategy: sending federal agents to scour companies’ records for illegal immigrant workers. While the sweeps of the past commonly led to the deportation of such workers, the “silent raids,” as employers call the audits, usually result in the workers being fired, but in many cases they are not deported. Over the past year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has conducted audits of employee files at more than 2,900 companies. The agency has levied a record $3 million in civil fines so far this year on businesses that hired unauthorized immigrants, according to official figures. Thousands of those workers have been fired, immigrant groups estimate.

Thousands of Haitians will get the chance to stay in the United States as their country recovers from the devastating earthquake earlier this year, reported the Washington Post.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals approved a review of the asylum case of a woman from Guatemala who is afraid of being murdered in her home country for being a woman, reported the Los Angeles Times:

"What is most momentous about this is that the 9th Circuit is emboldening judges and trial lawyers who appear in immigration courts to make the case that women are capable of being a social group," said Bruce Einhorn, a former immigration judge who directs the asylum and refugee clinic at Pepperdine University School of Law. "It is not a guarantee, but it is an invitation to make that argument."

El Universal reported that a group of "concerned citizens" in Utah sent the personal information of more than a thousand illegal immigrants to authorities in an attempt to have them deported.

Arizona immigration news

The Arizona Republic reported that police officers in Mesa are being trained in preparation for July 29, the day that SB 1070 goes into effect:

Milstead said the new law shouldn't drastically change Mesa's current immigration policy, which requires detention officers to ask a prisoner's immigration status when booked into jail. Since the city began using the policy in January 2009, more than 1,291 suspected illegal immigrants have been booked into the city's jail. On March 15, city detention officers began detaining illegal immigrants under the federal 287(g) program, which allows local officers to enforce federal immigration law.

Politicians in various parts of the country are trying to get Gov. Brewer to endorse them, reported the Arizona Daily Star:

Gov. Jan Brewer's national celebrity has hit such a fever pitch that when she's not fueling late-night one-liners and rallies, her endorsement is being sought in dozens of races in other states.

She recently endorsed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel, who praised Brewer as "an inspiration to conservatives."

On Wednesday, Brewer announced she's backing Oklahoma Congresswoman Mary Fallin in her gubernatorial bid. Fallin has been saying on the stump that she'd follow Brewer's lead to fight for states' rights.

On the border

When illegal immigrants are deported, they are not always sent back home.  Many are deported to Nogales, Sonora, a place they have never been before, reported the Nogales International:

The situation turned so bad that in early June, Mayor Jose Angel Hernandez Barajas appealed to the federal government for help in coping with the migrant influx. “It’s a crisis for Nogales,” said Alejandro Palacios, spokesman for the mayor.


Some Mexican deportees, mostly single males, are being deported through Nogales after being caught in California as part of the Alien Transfer Exit Program, a new effort that aims to keep migrants from reconnecting with the smugglers who tried to get them into the United States. But Candelaria said the program is conducted on a one-to-one basis, so every California-caught migrant is exchanged for one that would have been deported through Nogales.

Business is bad for the tourism industry in Tijuana because of a series of crises, including the September 11, 2001 attacks and the recent economic downturn, reported El Universal. In addition to tourists leaving, Tijuana is losing residents because of an increase in kidnappings, El Universal said:

The phenomenon produced an exodus towards the border with the United States, more than anywhere else to the area of Bonita y Chula Vista, cities in the south of San Diego County.

Migration for reasons of safety is a fact that nobody has formally investigated in either of the countries, leading to a lack in concrete numbers.  However, Victor Clark Alfaro, director of the Binational Center for Human Rights, considers that the data is not necessary. 

"What really matters is that at the root of the kidnapping and extortion a new migratory phenomenon was configured, which might not be massive, but is very symbolic," he explained.

A similar process is unfolding in Chihuahua, El Universal reported.

Border patrol news

Border Patrol agents used the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System to identify and arrest an illegal immigrant in southern Arizona who had a warrant for murder, reported the Arizona Daily Star. Another man with murder on his record was arrested by Border Patrol agents in New Mexico, reported the El Paso Times. Border Patrol agents also found 744 pounds of marijuana abandoned in the desert in southern Arizona, reported the Star.

Violence in Juarez

Ciudad Juarez is often cited as the most violent city on the U.S.-Mexico border. A GlobalPost report on explained the roots of the violence in Juarez:

The violence first exploded in January 2008, when the Sinaloa Cartel kicked off an all-out war with their old partners in the Juarez Cartel over the billion-dollar drug smuggling routes through the city. "I received confidential information that the war would come and it would be very cruel with a lot of deaths," said Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes, talking in the back of an SUV as he drove between civic events. "Our source said it would start on Jan. 6 right after the vacations. In fact it began on Jan. 5." In the following months, gangsters started killing their rivals in record numbers while also gunning down dozens of agents of the Juarez police force.


"They were killing police all over — many because the officers were themselves involved with organized crime but others as a strategy so they could operate more easily in the city," Reyes said. "It worked. Police were scared to patrol or even go outside." By March 2008, Reyes conceded that city authorities were overwhelmed and called in for the federal government to take direct control of all law and order in the city — a mandate it has had since.

Also on, a story says children are being used as assassins in Juarez:

At less than 5 feet 6 inches with acne and a mop of curly hair, 17-year-old Jose Antonio doesn't look particularly menacing. But in his tender years, he has seen more firefights and murders than many soldiers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Indeed, Jose Antonio has come of age in a war zone. And he has served as a soldier, siding squarely with the insurgent drug gangs of Juarez. He said he first picked up a gun at 12 years old, when he joined the calaberas, or "skulls," one of the gangs that rule the slums that climb up sun-baked hills on the west side of this sprawling border city.

Curtis Prendergast also writes for The Sonoran Chronicle.

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