Arizona's new immigration law and the introduction of a similar measure in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is spurring action in Pittsburgh's legal and immigration community. David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh says the glaring problem with the legislation is that it is counter productive to fighting crime. Harris says not only are illegal immigrants five times less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans, but the law drives a wedge between law enforcement and the immigrant community. That divide will keep victims and witnesses from coming forward to report criminal activity.
Arizona Senate bill 1070 requires law enforcement to question individuals they deem reasonably suspicious about their immigration status during police encounters. Harris says a number of law enforcement organizations are coming out against Arizona's law--including the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Major City Chiefs Association--because it stymies their mission of fighting crime. Harris says the law is also on shaky legal ground because immigration enforcement is usually the realm of the federal government, not the state. He doesn't dispute citizen's desire to have stronger border enforcement, but says this type of legislation does more harm that good.
A forum taking place Monday evening will feature a panel of speakers--including Harris, Vic Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Christina Powers of the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center, among others. They will discuss what the actual Arizona law says and why they think it doesn't make sense for public policy or public safety. The meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. at the Friends Meeting House, 4836 Ellsworth Avenue in Pittsburgh.