Why the Distinction Between 'Legal' and 'Illegal' Immigrants Doesn't Matter.

In response to Arizona's crazy anti-immigrant bill, various leaders from civil-rights organizations -- including the Anti-Defamation League, the National Council of La Raza, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights -- called on Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the legislation on a press call today. And as I argued in a previous post, they also said it highlights the need for national immigration reform.

The passage of the bill in Arizona has ignited what was already some dry brush. To say immigrant-rights advocates are "disappointed" with the Obama administration's progress is putting it lightly: Rep. Luis Gutierrez has joined other Latino leaders in calling for constituents not to show up to the polls for the midterm elections, and the organizers of March's immigration-rights protest in Washington have called for another nationwide series of demonstrations on May 1.

During the question-and-answer session of the press call, a reporter from CNN Radio took up the mantle of "the American people" and expressed frustration that a distinction isn't made between legal and illegal immigrants. The panelists floundered in responding to him, but the point is that the Arizona law makes no distinction between legal and illegal immigrants: It empowers officers to discriminate against anyone on the basis of race whether they have their papers in order (and with them) or not. Driving home the legal/illegal distinction has been a centerpiece of the right's opposition to immigration reform, but as this legislation shows, their target is much broader.

-- Gabriel Arana

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