Criminal justice is a combination of practices and government institutions which are directed to uphold social control, mitigate and deter crime, or sanction those people who violate state laws with rehabilitation efforts and criminal penalties. The criminal justice system has a goal of balancing the aim of controlling the crime and development of practices for prevention, as well as promote justice. Justice includes fairness, equity and protection of the rights of an individual. The criminal justice system also has a goal of reducing the level of crime by selecting punishment for committing offences. It also aims to raise the confidence of the law-abiding citizens that the system can deliver justice, and it is fair. Therefore, criminal justice has a general obligation of reducing crime among the country’s citizens and increasing the security of a country (Fuller, 2005).
In the United States of America, illegal immigration is one of the crimes that the criminal justice system aims to eradicate. Illegal immigration refers to the act of moving into a country/state without the proper authorisation by that state. This illegal immigration occurs in many forms with the most common being border crossing. In other words, immigrants from countries that do not have an automatic visa agreement with the USA or those who do not qualify for an American visa, cross into American soils via the borders. The most affected boarders are the Mexican border and the strait of Gibraltar. Some of the immigrants can be illegally smuggled by intermediaries while others find ways to enter individually into the United States of America. The other group of illegal immigrants is made up of those people, who overstay a legally confirmed visa after it has expired.
The department of criminal justice usually punishes the illegal immigrants with deportation. Those people who do not possess legit American citizenships or official permit to stay in the country are forcefully sent back to their country of origin. A fine can be charged to the illegal immigrant, and he/she may also face an imprisonment term of not more than ten years. In some instances, the police arrests or takes other legal action towards the employers, who knowingly hire illegal immigrants to work in their companies (Carter, 2002). Since the year 2002, a few local enforcement agencies have been granted permission to take part in the process of enforcing federal immigration laws. They have been allowed to participate in ACCESS programmes, in the U.S. immigration and customs enforcement agency’s initiative. Through such collaborations, the police enters into agreements that allow police officers to be trained on the ways of enforcing the federal immigration laws. The police are also given the authority to carry out the responsibilities connected with enforcement of federal immigration laws (Fuller, 2005).
There are many local police departments that have not taken up the enforcement of the immigration laws. This has been partly due to the limitations of resources required to enforce immigration laws and their complexity. Some local police departments have also shunned away from the enforcement of these laws because of the potential risk of civil liability. There is also the general fear by the local police of jeopardizing the trust and cooperation of the members of immigration communities. However, these local police officers are pressurised by the community to take up the enforcement of the immigration laws (Tranaes, 2004).
On the 23rd day of April 2010, the governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, signed the senate bill 1070 into law. This bill requires the police officers to detain, when practicable, any person they reasonably suspect to be in the American land without the right authorization. The police were also mandated to verify the status of the detained person by asking for identification. The police were given the authority to do this unless it would hinder an emergency medical treatment or any police investigation.
Although it was a common police practice to ask for identification in places such as subways, public places and highways in some countries, this bill made Arizona the first American state to demand identification of immigrants living in America. Therefore, this bill made it a crime to travel around the state without carrying some kind of legal immigration papers (Carter, 2002). Any immigrant, who could not verify his or her immigration status, was arrested and taken to the custody of the ICE. This immigration bill is also commonly referred to as the “support law enforcement” and “safe neighbourhood act”. The law also makes it a crime to live in the Arizona state without legal authorization. One is also not allowed to give transport to an illegal immigrant.
This immigration bill elicited mixed feelings among politicians, statesmen and citizens. Some people supported the bill and felt that it would have the positive impact on the state of Arizona. Other people were infuriated with the bill, and they particularly questioned the criteria that a police officer would use to recognise an illegal immigrant. This took into account the fact that the population of Arizona is approximately thirty percent Hispanic and is characterized by a larger population of mixed races. Therefore, people questioned how a police officer would isolate a person from this vast population and mark him or her as a suspected immigrant (Tranaes, 2004).
The President of America, Barack Obama, highly criticized the bill even before the governor signed it. The President said that this law would promote irresponsibility among some people, especially the police officers. After the signing of the bill into law by the governor hundreds of people organized a peacefully demonstration when she was giving a speech. They argued that the bill was trying to fix a national crisis that they did not generate and that the federal government had refused to solve this crisis. The move by the President to criticise the bill may be politically beneficial to his bid for another presidential term. This is because the Hispanics, who were approached and courted by the presidents’ party, were also against the law saying it was a recipe for ethnic and racial profiling. Therefore, the Hispanics would favor the President for another term since Barack Obama openly disapproved the bill (Morash, 2006).
The governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, defended the move to sign the bill into law by reassuring the citizens that the police, who were to be assigned with the role of carrying out this law, were to receive proper training. Her decision to sign the bill into law was further boosted by an event that had occurred in Arizona. A suspected smuggler had killed a rancher in southern Arizona a few weeks before the bill was voted by the state legislature. The governor used this incidence to emphasise the importance of the bill to promote peace in the Arizona state. She also explained to the citizens of Arizona the need to have trust that their police force would implement the law accordingly.
This bill had some significant effects to the state of Arizona. These effects were social, economic and political. The Arizona immigration bill favors the process of finding immigrants, punishing and potentially deporting them, instead of finding ways to integrate the immigrants into the American society. This has a significant social impact on the American citizens. Some people argue that immigrants are not to be treated as citizens since they have already broken the US immigration laws. Therefore, they should be jailed and deported according to the law. This brought a sense of alienation and segregation for the immigrants. They felt unwanted and unappreciated in a state, where they actively contributed to the economy especially in the agricultural sector. This law produced an environment that invoked fear among the immigrants, rather than promoting civic cohesion. It created a suspect class, which was partially based on ethnicity. The president Obama further emphasized that this law would bring ethnicity conflict. He argued that people were going to be harassed unnecessarily because they lacked documents supporting their American citizenship (Carter, 2002).
The other social impact is that the law created a cloud of suspicion between co-workers, neighbours, government officials and the police officers. This law promoted ethnic stereotyping and racial profiling. This is caused by the clause that allows the police to stop any person and ask for documents after having reasonable suspicion that they may be immigrants. The description of suspicious people remains ambiguous, and they may use the racial and ethnic features to discriminate among citizens. The Hispanics, who form the largest community of immigrants in the state of Arizona, find themselves discriminated against. This law states that race and colour should not be used as a mean to implement the requirements of subsections by any law enforcement officer. However, the U.S. and Arizona supreme courts ruled that race may be considered when enforcing this law. This is because the chance that a given individual who hails from Mexico is a foreigner is high enough to warrant that the Mexican appearance is a relevant factor. Therefore, the Arizona Supreme Court agrees that the enforcement of these immigration laws involves a significant consideration of racial and ethnic factors. This law does not specify how an illegal immigrant looks like and it gives the police the possibility of discriminating against certain racial groups of people (Erik, April 27 2012).
Another social implication of this law is that it caused fear among the immigrant communities. The immigrants started to hide away from the police. They also developed a strained relationship with the police. The immigrants were afraid of being identified since they would be deported back to their home countries. Therefore, these communities could not report cases of crime to the authorities. This increased the number of unreported crimes in Arizona. Additionally, this increases to some extent the level of crime in these communities, since the criminals have a surety that their crimes will go unreported (Tranaes, 2004).
The economic effects of the Arizona immigration law are also evident. The law, which was aimed at targeting the gun and drug traffickers, especially from Mexican origin, affected a larger group of people. When the Arizona SB 1070 bill was voted into law, over one hundred thousand undocumented workers left the state of Arizona. Some of these workers returned to their native countries, or moved to other countries to search for secure employment. This led to decreased availability of human labor. Among all industries, the most affected industry was the agriculture industry, which particularly faced a shortage of the casual laborers as more immigrants escaped away from the Arizona state. A study was carried out by the American farm bureau federation on the impact of the restrictive immigration policies to the agricultural sector. This study showed that if the labor of immigrants in the agricultural sector were cut off, between five and nine billion dollars in annual production would be lost. This is because most of the production is primarily dependent on the labor offered by the immigrants. The annual loss in the import sensitive commodities would increase to between six and twelve billion dollars as the effect continued to be felt in the agricultural sector.
Affected areas also included the manufacturing industries, retail industry, food and service industry, construction industry and some other key industries. All this industries are dependent on the labor which is offered by the immigrants. Most of the people who supported the law argue that the immigrants used the taxpayer’s money. They failed to understand the fact that the immigrants formed a large market for the industry of processed foods and products. The immigrants spent money on necessities such as food, clothing, entertainment and other goods needed by consumers. In the case that these immigrants left the state, they took away the human capital with them. This also caused a decrease in the market for processed consumer goods (Bartollas and Van, 2011).
The other group of people affected by this law, besides the employers, were the business owners without American citizenship. The business owners were faced with the real challenge of being closed down because of their failure to abide with the Arizona immigration law. This resulted to a decrease in the number of immigrants willing to start up businesses in the state of Arizona. The environment created was anti-entrepreneurial, and it chased potential investors away from the Arizona state. Thus, the state lacks new, upcoming businesses, which in turn reduced the availability of jobs, hence worsening the issue of unemployment. A report by the American centre for progress gave an estimate that the unemployment level in the Arizona state would decrease by 17.2%, and eliminate five hundred and eighty one thousand jobs for both the U.S. citizens and the immigrant workers. The report further suggested that the unemployment level would decrease the economy of the state by over fourty eight billion dollars, and hence reduce the tax revenue by 10.1%.
This law also affected the tourism industry due to the numerous demonstrations and boycotts that resulted due to the law enforcement. The boycotts and demonstrations led to cancellation of a few conferences that were planned in the state of Arizona. The cancellations led to a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars and also destroyed the reputation of the state of Arizona among tourists and business leaders (Pace, 2003).
Some of the other states in America that followed suit in imposing the immigration rules after Arizona include the states of Alabama, Utah, Georgia, Indiana and South Carolina. In the state of Alabama, primary and secondary schools are required to check the immigration status of both children and parents. The schools are also expected to establish and publish the total number of enrolled students who are immigrants. They are also expected to give a report to the taxpayers of all the costs that are generated by the immigrant students. This law resulted in the addition of more paperwork for the school staff, which was needed to report about the immigration status of their parents and students (Neocleous, 2004).
The other effect of the immigration laws was felt on the monetary expenses used to train police officers. The police officers were mandated with the duty of identifying and checking out the details of the immigrants. They were to be trained on how to identify the documents that were authentic and differentiate them with the forged ones. The police also required training on the ways of avoiding racial profiling, ethnic prejudice and how to avoid and deal with discrimination complaints. This has produced a significant economic impact on all the states that have enacted the immigration law. This law has produced other effects such as the closure of businesses that catered for the minorities. This is because the immigrants left these states in large numbers after the enactment of the immigration law.
The states that adopted this bill have also used a considerable amount of money defending these rules in the court. In Arizona, lawsuits have been filed with the aim of annulling the immigration law. The United States Department of Justice, for example, filed a lawsuit against Arizona to the court. It was asking the court to annul the Arizona immigration law. The Department of Justice argued that the Arizona law interfered with the immigration regulations, which are vested to the federal government. Although the Arizona state won the case, it used considerable amounts of money to do it (Morash, 2006).
The police who enforce these laws were moved to the borders where most migrations take place. This meant that most of the police were involved in the enforcement of the immigration law. As a result, some of the serious crimes were not given the appropriate attention that they required. The process of recruiting more law enforcers used up both valuable time and money (Bartollas and Van, 2011).
The law enforcers received the news of this law with mixed reactions. Some of the police officers were against it, but most of them accepted it and supported its implementation. The Phoenix law enforcement association, which legally represents the police officers, supported the legislation and lobbied for its passage. The police officers who supported this bill argued that they had many indicators besides race that they would use to determine whether a person is an illegal immigrant. Some of these indicators included the absence of identification and conflicting statements made by the suspected immigrant.
The immigrants in the Arizona state and other states with the immigration law in action were displeased with the law. They felt targeted by the law, and most of them responded by returning to their native countries. Some of the immigrants responded by holding demonstrations and boycotting their jobs.
From the above discussion, it is evident that the issue of immigration is one that the American government requires to give a closer attention. The number of illegal immigrants is high, with the largest population originating from Mexico. The states of Alabama, Utah, Georgia, Indiana and South Carolina have taken a step to deal with the alarming number of illegal immigrants that increases daily. Their efforts, which have involved the legislation of the immigration bill, have received both positive and negative reviews from different people. Most people believe that a solution that nationally addresses the problem of immigration is needed. The moral considerations of how to solve the situation are that the U.S. citizens should be protected (Bartollas and Van, 2011).
The political impact of these laws may prove crucial to the governors of these states. They have to convince their voters that they can avert the negative criticism that these laws have received. Some of the politicians, such as Senator Harry Reid, have placed the issue of immigration on top of their agendas. Therefore, it will prove crucial for them to show how the immigrants will be dealt with, without affecting the already unstable economy of their states. The politicians in the states, where such laws have not been enacted yet, have to consider tabling similar bills. This is after they assess the impact of similar laws in the other states. The immigration laws will prove to be a suitable platform for debate even to the presidential candidates seeking office in the next election. They have to give solutions on whether the immigrants will be deported or integrated as American citizens. In both cases, they will also need to show the voters how and why they are going to follow the plan of action that they lay out.