Arizona's simmering frustration with the federal immigration system—which has failed to stop illegal immigration through Arizona's border with Mexico—officially boiled over when the state legislature passed and Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 in April 2010.
In a year when the federal government made no progress on immigration reform (see Issue #5: United States Still Stalled on Immigration Reform, Republican Victories in Midterm Elections Change Landscape), the law cemented Arizona's status as ground zero for U.S. immigration enforcement and made the state the target of a federal and other lawsuits, boycotts and demonstrations, and international reactions.
SB 1070's most controversial provision authorizes law enforcement to question the immigration status of anyone stopped for a possible state violation if the officer has a "reasonable suspicion" that an individual is an unauthorized immigrant. Civil-rights and immigrant advocacy groups suing Arizona have claimed this provision would lead to racial profiling.
In its lawsuit, the federal government has relied on a different theory, arguing that federal law preempts SB 1070. In July, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton gave the federal government's argument a boost, temporarily stopping this and other key provisions, including requiring immigrants to carry proof of their immigration status, from going into effect. But Bolton allowed some provisions to take effect.
On November 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments on Brewer's appeal of the judge's injunction. The case will likely end up before the Supreme Court.
Despite the legal setbacks, Arizona has inspired 23 states (from Georgia to Oklahoma to Nevada), which have already introduced or have announced plans to pursue their own versions of SB 1070. Other states are reportedly waiting for the outcome of the lawsuit before introducing their own legislation.
However, state and local legislative action on immigration has remained unabated in the United States. In the first half of 2010, 44 state legislatures enacted 319 laws and resolutions related to immigrants and refugees, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Local frustration with immigration is not limited to the United States. Although Silvio Berlusconi's government has famously cracked down on illegal immigration and immigrants since coming to power in 2008, some Italian cities have taken matters into their own hands.
Most notable among them is Milan, the heart of Italy's industrial north that has become home to immigrants from China to North Africa and remains a stronghold of the anti-immigrant Northern League party. Last year, police in Milan began targeting immigrants on public buses and trams, demanding to see proof of legal status and taking those who lacked documents to the police station for identification and possible expulsion.
In February, ethnic rioting broke out in a diverse neighborhood in Milan's outskirts after a Latin American gang murdered a young Egyptian. The deputy mayor told the media that city officials would check buildings in immigrant neighborhoods, notifying authorities of those who could be deported.
In 2009, the Tuscan city of Lucca banned new ethnic food outlets in the city's center, a move that encouraged the city of Florence to pass a similar law this year.
Question: Will Arizona be a new model of activism for subnational action in the United States and beyond?