As the U.S. Democrats push for immigration reform laws that recognize the contribution of the many non-citizens residing within U.S. borders, border states are taking matters into their own hands. Arizona’s newly passed legislation originally required that police officers question individuals who they believe may be in the country illegally. A Phoenix police officer effectively sued in response, saying that the new law would require him to stop school children in the area he patrols during the day to inquire about their citizenship. Arizona state lawmakers seemingly predicted resistance from some police precincts: the law includes a clause that enables the state to sue police departments that do not enforce the new mandate. The law was amended on May 1 to only allow questioning of people who police stop, detain or arrest, but civil rights advocates say that police can and have invented all kinds of reasons for stopping people they want to question. President Barack Obama has voiced concern and is exploring strategies to challenge Arizona’s new legislation.

In the meantime, some policymakers in Utah are hoping to implement similar legislation. Although Utah lawmakers may have been entertaining such legislation before Arizona established its new law, they have certainly been influenced by the dramatic actions of their neighboring state.

Representative Steve Sandstrom says he is drafting a similar bill for Utah because he fears that, if Utah continues to be perceived as soft on illegal immigrants, all the aliens residing in Arizona will flock to Utah. Sandstrom is taking the approach to undocumented immigrants that New Yorkers take to cockroaches. If your neighbor hires an exterminator, you’d better hire one, too, or the bugs will be eating in your kitchen tomorrow. The difference is that one method deals with disease-carrying insects and the other deals with people—families and children who are entitled to the same basic human rights as each and every U.S. citizen.

In 2002, Utah passed a controversial law that extends in-state tuition to children of undocumented immigrants. The law has been challenged unsuccessfully every year since it was passed. Sandstrom’s bill would supersede existing legislation for both in-state tuition and driving privilege cards currently extended to undocumented immigrants in Utah. Is a law that deters students from obtaining higher education ever a good idea?

Supporters from both Arizona and Utah insist that the new laws do not promote racial profiling, but it is difficult to see how they don’t. What other criteria will police use to guess who might be in the U.S. illegally? Mode of transportation? A penchant for ethnic cuisine?

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