Arizona Turns Immigrant Workers into Criminals

Lawmakers in Arizona must believe the state’s law enforcement officers have too much time on their hands.

A bill passed by the legislature yesterday will make it a misdemeanor to be in Arizona without proper immigration paperwork. It also directs Arizona police to question anyone about their immigration status if they have reason to suspect the person is in the country illegally. Failure to produce the proper documents could result in arrest, a $2,500 fine, and up to six months in jail.

Making and enforcing immigration law is a federal responsibility. State and local police should focus their resources on preventing crime and apprehending real criminals who pose a danger to public safety.

Police in Arizona seem to agree. According to an Associated Press report,

[The bill] is opposed by police chiefs, who worry that the law would be too costly, that it would distract them from dealing with more serious problems, and that it would sow such distrust among immigrants that they would not cooperate with officers investigating other crimes.

The right response to illegal immigration should be to change our laws to expand opportunities for legal immigration. As our numerous studies have shown, a comprehensive immigration reform bill in Congress that included a robust temporary worker program would reduce illegal immigration, make the U.S. border more secure, and boost our economy.