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May 14, 2010 > Supervisors weigh in on legal challenges to Arizona Law

Supervisors weigh in on legal challenges to Arizona Law

Submitted By Gwen Mitchell and Miguel Marquez

On May 11, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors announced it will participate in lawsuits challenging the State of Arizona's anti-immigration law. Supervisor George Shirakawa stressed the importance of opposing measures that deputize local law enforcement officers as immigration agents and lead to racial profiling.

"Arizona's law is a direct assault on people's civil rights and will increase the real fears of racial profiling in communities nationwide," said Supervisor Shirakawa. "We've heard our residents' concerns. We want all in our community to know Santa Clara County agencies are there to protect people from crime and provide emergency medical services, not to act as immigration agents."

Home to a long-standing immigrant community, Santa Clara County hopes to serve as a model to other localities. More than a third of the County's population is foreign-born and more than two-thirds are from immigrant families. Thriving Latino and Asian-American communities account for more than half the population.

Supervisor Shirakawa emotionally described how his own family's experiences with racism and oppression inspired him to lead an effort opposing Arizona's law. As a descendant of Mexican and Japanese immigrants, both sides of his family were impacted by the government's past practice of systematic prejudice through the Repatriation Act in the 1930's (a law that forced people of Mexican descent to go to Mexico even though many were Americans) and Japanese Internment during World War II.

"I see the Arizona law as a veiled attempt to do the same thing that befell my family in the thirties and forties. I'd planned on playing golf in Arizona in the fall but wasn't planning on taking my papers with me to prove that I'm American," he said. "Communities of color shouldn't have to live in fear of their government."

Acting County Counsel Miguel Marquez reported the Board had authorized the filing of briefs as amicus curiae, or friend of the court.

"By filing a brief as a friend of the court, the County can provide an important perspective on how local governments, law enforcement agencies and social services agencies, outside Arizona, are harmed by a law like Arizona's that breeds fear and mistrust of government in immigrant communities and communities of color, nation-wide," he said.

Marquez's office hopes to provide this perspective on behalf of Santa Clara County and any other localities wishing to stand with the County in opposition to Arizona's law.

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