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Razing Arizona: Policing and the Politics of Citizenship

On April 23, 2010 Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law. The new law, which will go into effect on July 29, 2010, requires local law enforcement authorities to check the immigration status of any person where “reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States” and to charge unauthorized immigrants with a state crime.

More insidiously, the law enables residents to sue law enforcement agencies if they believe authorities are not enforcing the law vigorously enough. The Arizona law has quickly become model legislation, with “copycat” bills introduced or being considered in 11 states. This paper traces the evolution of state- and local-level anti-immigrant legislation in the United States, from anti-solicitation ordinances targeted towards day laborers, to laws making it a crime to rent housing to unauthorized immigrants, to the new Arizona law which effectively criminalizes immigrants’ very presence in the United States.