Steffanie Rivers

*Arizona’s new immigration law has sparked countless protests and has some government officials in other states cutting business ties to show their disapproval. News about the new immigration law spread faster than the swine flu of 2009. Too bad most people didn’t get all the facts before they jumped on the ‘boycott Arizona’ bandwagon.

It’s true Arizona Governor Jan Brewer approved a state law that requires immigrants to carry their registration documents at all times and allows police to question individuals’ immigration status in the process of enforcing any other law or ordinance.

What part of that statement is disagreeable? Is it the part that says everyone must carry a valid ID or is it the part that says if you break the law and police catch you you must be prepared to prove your citizenship or that you are a legal immigrant in the United States? I say neither.

Most people who drive in the United States use their driver’s license or permit as proof of identification. Even non drivers have some form of ID to prove who they are. Requiring legal immigrants to carry their valid documentation with them at all times is a good thing. When I travel abroad I always have my passport with me just in case I am detained by law enforcement for any reason. Why should it be any different in the United States?

When someone is asked to present her ID to a law enforcement officer usually it’s while being detained for a minor traffic violation or while trying to enter a secured area such as an airport or military base. Otherwise, most people are never asked to prove who they are. The new law doesn’t allow law officers to ask about a person’s immigration status unless the person already was being detained for some other legal infraction.  Police officers who ignore the written guidelines of the new law and question people about their status based on the officers’ own illegal immigrant stereotypes could find themselves and the agency they represent facing civil rights violation lawsuits.

As a Black woman in America I know that racial profiling exists. So I understand the argument from critics of the Arizona law that claim racial profiling will increase. But the new state law was enacted to reinforce already existing federal regulations against illegal immigration. Law makers in states that border Mexico, including Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas have watched their budgets for healthcare, welfare and yes, crime prevention and punishment balloon out of control due partly to illegal immigration.

Federal support funds have dried up leaving state officials to come up with their own methods to cut budget expenses and still pay for state funded programs. So it makes sense that illegal immigration would be the likely target to help cut state expenses. If this new measure helps Arizona to cut its state budget and decrease crime who should argue that it’s not a good idea? As a tax paying American citizen I prefer my tax dollars to be used for myself and other tax payers – not to support people who don’t pay into the system. That’s not uncivil or un-American. That’s common sense.

Instead of President Barack Obama and other politicians voicing inflammatory statements about worst case scenarios when it comes to the new law, they should applaud Arizona’s good faith effort for trying to solve its own financial problems instead of begging for handouts from Uncle Sam. Those other border states should learn a lesson from Arizona. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Send questions, comments or requests for speaking engagements to Steffanie at [email protected]. And see the video version of her journal at youtube.com/steffanieriv