On April 25, 2012, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the Arizona Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, better known as Arizona SB 1070. The new law, if implemented, would allow local government officials to enforce federal immigration laws. The “show me your papers” provision of the law would allow local police to ask for proof of citizenship from anyone based on reasonable suspicion. Many claim that this will effectively allow for racial profiling, using race as a grounds for suspicion by law enforcement. On June 25, the Supreme Court came to a decision and struck down many parts of the bill but upheld the “show me your papers” provision. The law and decision are being met by strong reactions from many communities, including some Muslim Americans.
According to the Washington Post, Arizona, the state with the most illegal immigrations over the Mexico and United States border, had an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants in April of 2010. Due to the growing Hispanic population, increased drug and human trafficking related violence, and economic struggles, many in the state called for some sort of legal action on immigration.
Locally known as being a strong opponent against illegal immigration, Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce became the majority sponsor of the bill. Pearce successfully fought for other anti-immigration laws in the past and now sought to pursue state enforced federal immigration laws.
The drafted bill quickly gained support and passed through the Arizona state Senate in February of 2010 and the House of Representatives on April 13, 2010. It then went to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who, on April 23, 2010 signed the bill.
Throughout all of this, there was much debate and activity over the bill, both for and against it. During the signing, thousands gathered at the Arizona Capitol to either condemn or support the proposed bill. The intensity of the debate even caused some violence.
Soon, the bill traveled up to the United States Supreme Court in the now famous Arizona v. United States. By a 5-3 majority the Court struck down many provisions of the bill but kept the arguably most controversial one. The provision that allowed for police to investigate the immigration status of a person based on reasonable suspicion, and allegedly racial profiling, was upheld.
But in order for the bill to become state law the lower courts’ preliminary injunction, which is what stops the bill from going into effect until the courts decide the issue is resolved, must be lifted. The bill will now go through the lower courts and the result of their decisions will decide when, if ever, the bill will become law.
SB 1070 has met much opposition from Latino Americans. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, over half of all American Latino adults worry about themselves, family members, or friends being deported. That is because many Latinos are in the United States illegally. In 2011, according to the Arizona Daily Star, 91 percent of all U.S. deportations were of people from Latin American countries. Because of these struggles, the Latino community is against stricter immigration laws like SB 1070. According to an AP-Univision poll, 67 percent of Latinos said they were opposed to it with an outstanding 60 percent saying they were strongly opposed. The Latino community, all across the nation, has been campaigning and speaking out against the controversial bill.
In Arizona the effects of this are being strongly felt. The Latino community felt that a local sheriff, Joe Arpaio, was racially discriminating against them, and so decided to file a lawsuit. In a mass e-mail, Letty Ramirez of the group No Papers No Fear announced that he, along with other illegal immigrants, will be coming out of the shadows to voice their grievances during the case. Ramirez said that SB 1070 is what pushed him to get involved.
Ramirez and other illegal immigrants will be telling their stories outside the courthouse during the trial on July 24th 2012. The trial ended after The Muslim Link’s press deadline.
“I knew we had to do something,” read his email. “I’m tired of living in fear.”
Now, it seems that many states are attempting to pass similar bills like SB 1070. The question is what is the impact, if any, of this on the Muslim community? The bill seems to bother Latino Americans, but should the Muslims be worried too?
Many Muslim leaders, writers, and organizations have made their opinions and concerns about this bill known. The California Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) calls on American Muslims to contact Arizona Gov. Brewer and speak out against the bill. CAIR said that the bill calls for racial profiling and that American Muslims have experienced the negative effects of this in the past.
“Racial profiling is ineffective policing which will build distrust and fear of law enforcement in the community,” CAIR California said in a statement on their website.
Affad Shaikh, an American Muslim blogger, also spoke out against this bill. He described the bill as the new “Chinese Exclusion Act” and declared that it will have a huge impact on the Muslim community.
“Muslims will wonder, so what does this have to do with me?” he said.
He answers by saying that Muslims will be in danger due to this law because people naturally assume them to look like “terrorists.” Muslims will not be safe even if they are legal because they will be stopped based on their race and forced to prove their citizenship, he said.
Jamil Dasti, the imam of the Islamic Center of Maryland in Gaithersburg, described his concerns about illegal immigration. He explained how if a Muslim were to be an illegal immigrant in this country, they would need to lie and deceive to live here. He believed that according to Islam, illegal immigration is a problem. As to how America should deal with the problem, Dasti said that the U.S. government is trying to deal with it and is doing what they can. But he said that he could not comment on what the best solution to the immigration issue would be.
The bill has also made its way to the thoughts of every day Muslim American citizens. Dr. Anwar Karim, an engineering project manager, said that this law is “not good for America. It will scare the immigrant population.” He believes strict anti-immigration laws like this can hurt not only the Latino community, but the Muslim community as well. Karim also says that he knows some illegal immigrants and they do not feel good about this bill. Karim believes that the existing system for becoming a legal American citizen is not sufficient and that changes should be made to it. He said the best action for the issue of immigration right now is to speak out against this bill.
Hadi Quaiyum, a Prince George’s County engineer, also believes that this bill is a bad idea.
“[The bill allows] police to retain any individual based on their discretion,” Quaiyum said. “The individual would be under their custody with no known criminal record.”
He said that this would allow police to hold someone “under custody with no apparent reason.”
But Quaiyum made it clear that he does not support illegal immigration. He explains that illegal immigrants should not be allowed to enter the country and that the United States should have the right to deport them. He says that the U.S. supports many amnesty programs for immigrants to legally seek refuge in America from their own oppressive countries, so he sees no reason to come here illegally. He believes that the country is doing a lot to ensure that immigrants can enter and stay legally in the country, examples of these efforts being the lottery visa, work authorization, HI visa, and family visa. But, he also says, the process needs to go faster.
Mohamed Hakim, a construction engineer, supports the bill. He believes that the law is “good for America” and that it will help clear the illegal population in the country. He says that the bill will not affect the Muslim community because most Muslims are legal. He feels that the current American system of becoming a citizen is sufficient and that illegal citizens should be deported to “make space for legal citizens.” Hakim believes SB 1070 should be kept in full.
In April, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) signed a document, with about 50 other religious groups, urging the Supreme Court to fully overturn the SB 1070 bill. MPAC states that they support the notion of “justice for all” and will continue to work with groups who try to establish a more “just, humane and effective immigration system.”
The Muslim community’s opinion on the issue is very mixed, which reflects the feelings of Arizona and the rest of the country. A July 2010 Rasmussen Poll showed that 46 percent of Arizonians said the bill had a negative impact while only 40 percent said it was positive. A December 2011 poll conducted by the Alabama Education Association showed that 55 percent of voters wanted the bill to be revised or repealed. Generally, many do believe that the bill, as it currently stands, can hurt the nation. In the months to come, different groups will surely speak out for or against it. And if the bill is officially enforced, the country will see whether or not it really is something to fear.