by Seth Freed Wessler
Thursday, June 24 2010, 3:50 PM EST
Update: 07/06/10, 11:00AM EST: Michigan became the sixth state last month where a legislator has introduced a SB1070 copycat bill, joining South Carolina, Rhode Island, Mississippi, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.
It's been more than two months since Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law. Since then, at least 17 cities across the country have passed official boycotts of the state of Arizona, helping to galvanize a renewed national immigrants rights movement. The state is facing multiple lawsuits and the Justice Department is expected to file its own suit next week.
But then there's the simultaneous, countering trend: SB 1070 has also lifted up the most vitriolic elements of the anti-immigrant movement and as of today, politicians in 21 states are following Arizona's lead. We've found five states in which legislators have introduced laws that mirror the one in Arizona and 16 in which politicians say they plan to introduce bills.
As I reported in ColorLines last month, these copycat bills are not merely following Arizona's lead. Rather, the bills are the fruits of a concerted political strategy seeded by the far-right group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which has taken money from a eugenics foundation and was created by a man who warned of a "Latin onslaught."
FAIR is committed to ending immigration outright and creating conditions so unlivable that immigrants self deport. This strategy of attrition is working in Arizona, as there are indications that Latino immigrants are leaving the state. If 20 other states do in fact follow suit, we'll be seeing a near national-scale policy of apartheid.
Immigration advocates in South Carolina say that a copycat bill that was introduced last month has a real chance of passing when the legislature returns for its next session. In most other states it's unlikely that the laws will pass--though few thought the Arizona bill would become law when it was first floated. In many places, legislatures are already too close to the end of their sessions to move new bills, so if copycat laws are pushed, it won't be until next year.
But even if none of the SB 1070 copycat bills make it out of the legislatures, the simple fact that politicians, including a Democrat in who sponsored the bill in Rhode Island, are using immigrants' lives as political footballs tells us a lot about the state of American politics; mainly that the fringe has moved to the center and is rabidly latching on. It is now legitimate politics to propose a law that criminalizes the very existence of millions of people and implements something akin to racial apartheid.
Additional research by Karina Hurtado.
Visual design: Hatty Lee