When Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed S.B. 1070 into law this April, she enacted one of the most stringent immigration laws. The new policy allows law enforcement officials in Arizona to act as immigration enforcement agents. Once the main province of federal officials, Arizona police and other local law enforcement officials now have the duty to detain anyone who is not carrying immigration documents. Unfortunately, those who are likely to be stopped and asked for immigration papers are not just “anyone” but individuals of color who may be suspected to be undocumented immigrants. In the context of Arizona, those who “look like illegal immigrants” are of Hispanic and Latino heritage and will be targeted. And in some instances, members of the Asian Pacific American community may also be targeted.
The Asian American Psychological Association understands when anger and fear are fomented and directed at a single racial and ethnic group, the laws and policies that follow serve to legitimate discrimination and prejudice toward all minority groups. Although the law does not identify Hispanic and Latinos specifically, the outcome of this law will inevitably be a form of racial profiling, discrimination, and hostility toward racial and ethnic minority group members. Asian Americans are particularly sensitive to this current policing act. Historically, Asian Americans have had their own experiences related to immigration exclusion, restriction, as well as racial profiling. From the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which is still the only law that has ever identified a single-ethnic group for immigration restriction, to the internment of over 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II and racial profiling of South Asian American community members following September 11th, Asian Americans have faced the brunt of anger and fear born from perceived economic or security threats. The Asian American Psychological Association understands that when anger and fear are fomented and directed at a single racial and ethnic group, the laws and policies that follow often legitimate discrimination, marginalization, and prejudice. As a national organization whose mission is to advance the psychological well-being of Asian American communities through research, practice, and teaching, we express our deep concern that anti-immigrant sentiments that underlie this Arizona legislation would put Asian American and Latino communities at increased risk of harassment and discrimination.