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Russell Pearce, the state senator who authored Arizona Senate Bill 1070, has proclaimed that neighborhoods in the state will be safer when all undocumented immigrants are labeled by statute as criminals. His bill sought to help ensure that, but the heart of 1070 was stymied by U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton in a ruling that is certain to be appealed.
Law enforcement authorities, including Phoenix police chief Jack Harris, think 1070 will make it even harder for cops to do their jobs. Already, the victims of smugglers are reluctant to report crimes to police. If all of 1070 goes into effect, even more violent crime will occur under the radar of law enforcement.
Pearce argues that smuggling operations will be afraid to enter Phoenix if 1070 is enforced. But many cops say violent smugglers will in fact be able to carry on as usual because 1070 will force police departments to use resources going after law-abiding illegal aliens: maids, gardeners, tree-trimmers, restaurant workers.
Pearce insists that if Arizona makes itself as inhospitable to immigrants as possible, all but an insane few will stop coming to the United States illegally. What he and his allies ignore is that it's all but impossible for Mexicans and Central Americans to emigrate here legally.
U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, the federal agency that processes U.S. permanent-residency applications, is only now working on applications filed in 1994 by Mexican nationals seeking visas or green cards. These people, who followed the rules, have already waited 16 years.
That is too long for immigrants to endure when they need work to feed their families and are desperate to unite with loved ones in the United States, says Phoenix immigration attorney Jared Leung. "Whether it's parents wanting to be with children who were born here or parents bringing in children they left behind, no law is going to be strong enough to keep them apart," Leung says.
Federal law allows 26,260 people from Mexico to receive visas each year. There are more than 1.1 million Mexicans on a waiting list.
Monica Alonzo is a reporter for Phoenix New Times. Contact her at (602) 229-8440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.