Q&A Guide to Arizona's Immigration Law


April 26, 2011

One year after the passage of Arizona’s tough new immigration law (SB1070), both opponents and proponents are attempting to assess the impact the new law may have on residents of Arizona—citizens and immigrants alike. A federal district court ruling preliminarily enjoined large parts of the controversial law, meaning that those portions of the new law cannot be implemented, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the preliminary injunction. Other lawsuits have been filed challenging the constitutionality of the law and have yet to be ruled on, opponents have mounted boycotts, and numerous polls show that a majority of the public both supports the Arizona law and comprehensive immigration reform. Furthermore, despite criticism of SB1070 from Republicans, Democrats, police officials, religious leaders, and civil-rights leaders, legislators in many states have introduced or are considering introducing similar legislation.

SB1070 represents, among other things, a growing frustration with our broken immigration system. Ultimately, the courts will decide the constitutionality of the law, while time will answer many questions about its impact. In the short term, as other states contemplate copying Arizona’s version of immigration reform, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that an enforcement-only strategy—whether attempted at the federal or state level—does not solve the immigration problem.

This guide provides key answers to basic questions about Arizona’s law and the judge’s decision to stop parts of the law from being implemented—from the substance of the law and myths surrounding it to the legal and fiscal implications. As other states contemplate similar legislation, knowing the answers to basic questions about Arizona’s law will prove to be critically important in furthering the discussion.

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