Sacramento and San Francisco Mayors Kevin Johnson and Gavin Newsom, respectively, have both taken action to sever ties with Arizona in response to the state’s recent controversial immigration law.
Arizona’s SB 1070, passed on April 23, allows law enforcement officials to question and demand documentation from anyone they think may be in the United States illegally. Many people fear this is a form of racial profiling and is unconstitutional.
UC Davis School of Law Dean Kevin R. Johnson voiced his opinion on this issue both on local radio stations and in an op-ed piece in The Sacramento Bee, saying he believes it is unconstitutional.
“Arizona’s law is designed to regulate immigration, which is a federal concern,” Johnson said. “It violates the supremacy clause of Article 6 of the Constitution.”
Mayor Johnson expressed his disappointment in Arizona’s legislation in a blog on his website on April 28. He recalled his experience as a basketball player on the Phoenix Suns in 1988, when the governor at the time had rescinded the holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
“The Arizona law contradicts the foundation of American justice on multiple levels,” Johnson said in the blog. “Beyond the law’s discretionary bigotry, it stands as a hypocritical application of presumptive guilt, a violation of our essential constitutional rights. Ultimately, it requires the most colorblind police officer to judge people based on their skin color.”
Mayor Johnson clarified that he does not believe immigration should go unregulated.
“Our country must protect its borders,” he said. “We are a nation of immigrants, and immigration must be managed with thoughtful, fair and productive protocols.”
Newsom called the law “unacceptable” and told city workers they will not be allowed to travel to Arizona on city business.
“Whether or not to sever ties with Arizona is a political judgment everyone has to make for themselves,” Dean Johnson said. “The big issue now is since the state law is unconstitutional, what happens at a federal level? If people are interested in change they have to look at comprehensive reform on a federal level.”
The city of Davis does not have any contracts or ties with Arizona, but Yolo County supervisor Helen Thomson opposes the law.
“I personally am not in favor of the law; I think it’s a mistake,” Thomson said. “It’s a perfectly good demonstration of why we need immigration reform.”
Arizona schools are also worried about the effect of AB 1070 on their students. Some out-of-state students have already declined admission as a result of the law.
“I cannot state more firmly that the health and safety of our international students, faculty and professional staff are priorities of the highest order for us,” said University of Arizona president Robert Shelton in a statement. “We are going to do everything possible to help each of them understand the law and its impact.”
Shelton said he has “total confidence” in campus police to not apprehend students based only on race.
Organizations at California university campuses are protesting against the law as well. The Associated Students for Change, which is a cross-campus UC student organization, is working to raise awareness on the issue.
“We believe that the law is unconstitutional because it violates the division of powers between the state and federal government, it violates standards of equal protection before the law and it violates standards barring unreasonable search and seizure,” said Associated Students for Change representative and UC San Diego student Travis Lowe in an e-mail interview. “We believe that effective and fair reform can and should take place only on a federal level. We also understand and are sympathetic to those who live on the border and have been affected by immigration, especially in times as hard as these.”
SARAH HANSEL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.