Arizona Laws Decried

In a strongly worded statement, NASW denounced legislation recently enacted in Arizona that allows state and local police to stop anyone they suspect is unlawfully present in the U.S. The association also called upon members to voice their opposition.

“This legislation is of great concern to all social workers committed to the profession’s core values of human rights and social justice,” the statement said. “As social work professionals, we are called upon by our code of ethics to actively prevent and eliminate discrimination against any person, group, or class” on the basis of characteristics including race, ethnicity, national origin, color or immigration status.

The association warned: “Not only will it erode the civil rights of residents of Arizona, but it will also erode public trust in the police and diminish public safety. Immigrants who are victims of a crime will be less likely to report crime, as victims may now be asked to prove their legal status and subsequently be arrested themselves.”

Kyrstin SinemaArizona State Rep. Kyrstin Sinema, a social worker, criticized the legislation. She told NASW News that she voted against the legislation and urged Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto it.

“These kinds of patchwork policies consistently have failed to crack down on the real issue — the violence and criminal acts that can accompany illegal immigration — and SB 1070 fails as well,” said Sinema, referring to the immigration law. “We should be going after criminal syndicates and drugs and weapons traffickers instead of a janitor in Mesa.”

NASW advocates for comprehensive immigration reform that:

  • Promotes social justice and avoids discrimination or profiling on the basis of race, religion, country of origin, gender, sexual orientation or other grounds;
  • Ensures that procedures and policies do not indiscriminately target immigrants based on origin, religion, race or immigration status;
  • Ensures due process for all individuals, including immigrants;
  • Opposes mandatory reporting of immigration status by health, mental health, social service, education, police and other public service providers;
  • Promotes elimination of racism and anti-immigrant discrimination in employment practices;
  • Supports the human rights of day laborers;
  • Supports humanitarian measures to protect victims of human trafficking and enforcement of laws to prevent it; and
  • Supports families by promoting family reunification and guaranteeing the human services and education needs of all children are met regardless of their or their parent’s legal status.

After a nationwide repudiation, Arizona lawmakers amended the law to allow state and local police to inquire into a person’s status as a citizen only after that person had been stopped, detained or arrested on suspicion of another violation.

Weeks after signing the immigration bill into law, Brewer inked legislation banning ethnic studies classes in public schools that allegedly are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals, promote resentment toward a race or class of people or promote the overthrow of the U.S. government.

“It makes no sense to eliminate optional programs that teach students about American history and the people who make up the fabric of our country,” said Sinema, who voted against that bill as well.

While the law applies to all school districts in the state, it was targeted at Tucson schools’ Mexican-American Studies program.

“These programs are offered to all students and are essential to learning about democracy in America,” Sinema said. “It’s important for students to have the choice to learn about all of the people who make up our great nation, prepare them for the real world and understand mistakes from our nation’s past.”