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Weekly Diaspora: Arizona's anti-immigrant crusade continues

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Though Arizona’s SB 1070 went into effect without its most controversial provisions, the legislation’s stated intent -- attrition through enforcement -- is nevertheless gaining traction among anti-immigrant legislators across the nation. In the wake of the law’s enactment, other states are coming out in support of Arizona, some developing policy modeled after SB 1070. Others even hope to alter the U.S. constitution to deny “birthright citizenship” to children of undocumented immigrants.

Arizona stands firm against injunction

After federal judge Susan Bolton blocked numerous elements of SB 1070, Arizona governor Jan Brewer wasted no time and swiftly filed an appeal against the injunction.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for his part, has assured the public that he intends to continue enforcing state and federal immigration laws through “crime sweeps” and immigration status checks. After Arizona’s 287(g) agreement expired last year, effectively stripping local law enforcement of the right to detain individuals on suspicion of their immigration status, Arpaio similarly refused to comply, brazenly maintaining his immigration enforcement campaign.

Jamilah King of ColorLines reports that on the day that SB 1070 went into effect, Arpaio and hundreds of deputies arrested 50 protesters before completing their 17th immigration raid. Those arrested included clergy, journalists, and attorneys. Local civil rights leader Salvador Reza – a particularly outspoken critic of Arpaio’s contentious enforcement tactics, was also taken into custody, as was former state Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez.

No citizenship to “anchor babies”

Meanwhile, Arizona legislators are taking anti-immigrant sentiment to a new level and coming out in favor of potentially repealing the 14th amendment, which grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States.

At the Washington Independent, Elise Foley reports that Arizona senators Jon Kyl and John McCain are the latest to join the radical faction of Republican Party politicians calling for congressional hearings to reconsider the amendment. McCain’s new position is particularly curious given his historical support of comprehensive immigration reform, and past advocacy of deportees’ American children.

McCain’s about-face may be prompted by the impending election and, in particular, the considerable popularity of his Republican opponent J. D. Hayworth, who is running on a firm anti-immigrant platform.

Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive argues that the Republican focus on birthright citizenship is a malicious attempt to visit the sins of the father onto the children. Rothschild also calls attention to the fact that a whopping 94 Republicans in the House support the extremist effort.

SB 1070 paves the way

Arizona has long been a testing ground for anti-immigrant measures in the U.S. and SB 1070 is no exception. Now that the new law has gained traction, other states are following suit.

At Talking Points Memo, Christina Bellantoni reports that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) issued an opinion stating that Virginia law enforcement, including state park personnel, have the same authority to investigate immigration status as Arizona police officers.

Written as an advisory letter to state Delegate Bob Marshall, the opinion has garnered intense opposition -- in part because Virginia considers official opinions of the attorney general to be laws. Cuccinelli reinforced his opinion by filing an amicus brief to stand in solidarity with Arizona in its fight against the federal government.

He’s not alone, either. Going back to the Washington Independent Foley reports that three other attorney generals and nine states have filed amicus briefs in support of Arizona’s new immigration law.

Who profits when immigrants go to jail?

While SB 1070 is argued in the courts and debated in the media, Yana Kuchinoff at Truthout reminds us that 300,000 immigrants are languishing in detention centers under notoriously poor conditions. More than 100 deaths have been reported in immigration detention since 2003, sparking investigations by Human Rights Watch, Detention Watch, and even the Department of Homeland Security.

Moreover, private companies contracted to handle the rising number of detentions are making a fortune on the nation’s broken immigration system. Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private immigration detainer in the country, has made record profits since 2003 by billing the federal government an estimated $11 million per month and cutting costs at the expense of detainees’ health and well-being. Telecommunications companies like EverCom are also profiting from detention, charging immigrants in detention as much as $17.34 for a 15-minute phone call.

The irony of our dysfunctional immigration system, Kuchinoff concludes, is that the people who end up spending the most time in detention, are those with the strongest claims for staying in the U.S.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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