A controversial Arizona immigration law has sparked protests and demonstrations across the country.
Now Rep. Michael McMahon (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn) has said he is “opposed to empowering local and state police as the enforcers of our federal immigration policy. They are there to protect everyone regardless of their status.”
Arizona GOP Gov. Jan Brewer last week signed a bill requiring police in that state to determine whether people are in the country illegally if there is “reasonable suspicion” that is the case.
Opponents say that will lead to ethnic profiling, and the law is expected to be challenged in court.
President Barack Obama has called the law “misguided,” and Democratic lawmakers said Congress needs to act on immigration reform to make sure other states don’t follow Arizona’s lead.
But Republicans said that securing the U.S.-Mexican border should take precedence, especially given the recent flareup of drug-cartel violence in Mexico.
McMahon said yesterday the Arizona law does nothing to solve the problem of the 12 million people who are in the United States without legal status.
“Congress does need to tackle immigration reform to bring those in the shadows into the light of legal status and to secure our borders to stop the flow of illegal immigration into our country,” he said.
McMahon, whose mother immigrated to the U.S. from Germany years ago, offered no reform ideas of his own but said that immigration needs to be dealt with on the federal level.
“If the issue that is driving the crisis in Arizona is porous borders … we need to add money, manpower and resources into securing our southern border,” he said.
Federal agents, he said, “should be the ones to ensure immigration law is adhered to.”
Javier Valdes, deputy director of Make the Road New York (MRNY), an advocacy group with an office on Port Richmond Avenue, said the “anti-immigrant” law came about in part because Obama and Congress had failed to pass immigration reform.
“We have to deal with a broken system,” said Valdes. “It shouldn’t be left to the states and municipalities. It’s really a federal problem.”
He said that MRNY would mount an educational outreach effort about the Arizona law and immigration reform on Port Richmond Avenue on Saturday.
He agreed that the law would lead to the profiling of Latino workers in Arizona, and said that he wouldn’t want to see the law duplicated here.
“On Staten Island, there has always been an issue with the day laborers,” Valdes said. “There continues to be space for that tension.”
The North Shore is home to numerous immigrants, including Mexicans who work as day laborers for construction or landscaping firms.
Valdes said that all immigrants without legal status currently in the country should be given a “path to citizenship,” and he called upon McMahon and other lawmakers to commit to reform.
But Staten Island Tea Party co-founder Frank Santarpia said that the Arizona law makes sense given the spike in drug-related violence in Mexico.
The Arizona law, he said, is “firmly on the side of the law-abiding and peaceful people of that state,” and protects residents “from those illegally crossing the border with unknown intent.”
“We have no reason to believe that the peace officers of Arizona will do anything other than to follow the letter of the laws they are sworn to enforce,” said Santarpia, a Huguenot resident.