Inside Story: US 2012
How tough should the US be on immigration?
As the top US court assesses Arizona's immigration law, we ask what role this issue will play in the US election.
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2012 09:59

Two years ago the governor of Arizona signed into law a measure requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspected of being an undocumented immigrant.

"[What is being left out] is the theory behind the Arizona legislation which is attrition through enforcement …. We said we need you to do work but we gave them no legal way to come."

- Tamar Jacoby, the president of ImmigrationWorks USA

The move ignited a political firestorm with critics arguing that the legislation encouraged racial profiling.

The Department of Justice challenged the measure and a federal court issued an injunction that blocked the law's most controversial provisions.

Now it will be up to the US Supreme Court to decide whether Arizona was acting within its rights, or overriding federal policy.

But whatever happens, immigration will be one of the hot button issues come the presidential election in November.

"Parts of it are really more codifying what is already standard practice in much of the country. Honestly, if this law had gone into effect without all the fuss you wouldn't really have known about it."

- Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies

Raul Grijalva, the Democratic congressman for Arizona who has been following the legal proceedings, told Al Jazeera outside the court: "If it was up to President Obama to wave a magic wand and get comprehensive immigration reform done, if it was up to me to do that, we would've done it. We operate in a democracy and in this democracy unfortunately the counter-prevailing view is in charge and ... all they want to talk about is enforcement and self-deportation. As long as that's the political culture passing comprehensive reform was tough and will continue to be tough."

So should Arizona's tough anti-immigration law stand? How tough should the US government be on immigration?

Joining presenter Anand Naidoo on Inside Story: US 2012 to discuss this are guests: Tamar Jacoby, a Republican and the president of ImmigrationWorks USA; Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies; and Alessandra Soler-Meetz, the executive director of the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Regardless of what the court says this is not a good policy. More importantly as a practical matter, it diverts scarce police resources to going after people who fail to carry their registration documents rather than the people who really pose threats to public safety."

Alessandra Soler-Meetz, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Arizona chapter


  • Requires law enforcers to check the immigration status of anyone they stop
  • Makes it an offence not to carry an immigration registration document
  • Creates rules that prevent undocumented immigrants from obtaining work
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