Imagine police being able to stop, detain and check your papers simply because of the color of your skin, your accent or the way you dress. That's exactly what opponents say a new Arizona law will allow their law enforcement officers to do.
At St. Francis Catholic Church Tuesday, members of the Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition met to denounce a recently passed state law in Arizona that gives police sweeping rights to detain people based upon "suspicion" that they are immigrants in the country without proper documentation.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070, which requires police officers to stop, detain and check the immigration status of anyone they suspect might be in the country without proper documentation. Immigrant's rights groups say this will lead to open season for police to harass people of color without any justification other than their race.
Along with several members of the coalition, Damon Turner, a human rights commissioner with the city of Portland, told the crowd of reporters gathered for Tuesday's press conference that the law will be used to target citizens and noncitizens alike. He said the Office of Human Relations strongly condemns Arizona's law as prejudicial, unjust and misguided.
"The law opens the door to open-ended discrimination, given there are no concrete guidelines as to what reasonable suspicion means," he said.
Simply being Asian, African, Middle Eastern – or especially being Latino – would immediately place you under suspicion by Arizona law enforcement. He called on federal authorities to immediately address the violence created by vast, illegal cross-border drug markets and to pass comprehensive, humane and economically sound immigration reform.
Dagoberto Flores of the coalition said hard-working immigrants are not the cause of economic unrest in Arizona.
The Obama Administration and Democrats have condemned the legislation, while many Republicans have lent support or have been supportive of the state of Arizona to deal with the issue locally.