DHS Silent on Radical Arizona Immigration Bill

| Wed Apr. 21, 2010 9:30 AM EDT

National Hispanic lawmakers have slammed the Arizona immigration bill passed by state legislators that would allow an unprecedented crackdown on illegal immigrants. Authored by a state Republican who's praised a 1950s removal program called “Operation Wetback,” the bill would require police to question anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally—and then arrest them if they can’t provide identity documents. Denouncing the bill as "lunacy," Rep. Luis Gutierrez called for President Obama to intervene if the Arizona governor signs the legislation into passage, according to Politico's Kasie Hunt. But for the moment, the Obama administration has remained silent on the issue, using the opportunity simply to defend its own deportation program, Hunt reports :

The Department of Homeland Security, which enforces the border, would not comment on the proposed Arizona law.

"DHS continues to focus on smart, effective immigration enforcement that places priority on those dangerous criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities, on employers who continue to drive illegal immigration by knowingly hiring undocumented workers, and by surging law enforcement resources at the southwest border,"said DHS spokesman Matt Chandler. 

The Arizona immigration bill comes at the same time that federal authorities have ramped up their own crackdown on illegal immigration in the state. Last week, federal immigration authorities conducted a massive raid in Arizona and Mexico to break up a human smuggling ring that used shuttle vans to transport people across the border. The DHS operation came shortly after a rancher was killed by on the border, provoking a public outcry and fueling momentum for the Arizona bill.

The Obama administration's decision to focus on apprehending immgrants involved in trafficking rings and criminal enterprises is a more targeted policy compared with the blanket workplace raids of the Bush era. It also stands in stark contrast with the Arizona bill's attempt to target anyone and everyone that authorities suspect of being undocumented. But if the Arizona bill becomes law, the administration's decision to focus on deportation policy rather than broad-based reform of the immigration system could help fuel a climate of fear—and the perception that this is the only urgent immigration issue worth focusing on.

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