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Arizona Immigration Law

This Bill of Rights eLesson focuses on Arizona’s law designed to combat illegal immigration. The law was designed to mirror federal law and makes it a state crime to be in the USA illegally. The law has been strongly criticized by those who argue it will authorize racial profiling. In response to these concerns, the governor recently approved changes to the law clarifying that racial profiling is illegal.


Comprehension and Critical Thinking Questions

  1. What law regarding illegal immigration did Arizona recently pass?
  2. Why does Arizona claim the law is justified?
  3. On what grounds have critics objected to the law?
  4. Federal law states “Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him.” Should the state of Arizona be able to enforce this requirement, and make it a state crime to lack the proper immigration papers? Why or why not?
  5. President Obama said that the Arizona law threatens to “undermine basic notions of fairness.” The Fourteenth Amendment says that states must provide due process, and may not deny to any person within their jurisdiction the “equal protection of the laws.” Are persons in Arizona, including immigrants who do not have legal documentation, being denied due process or equal protection of the law by the state? Why or why not?


Have students research events from American history where tension between the central government and state governments erupted as one institution blamed the other(s) for not taking sufficient action. In which of these cases did state and local governments act because they claimed the federal government was not living up to its responsibilities? In which did the federal government take steps when it was claimed that states had failed to do so? Students may wish to research: the Whiskey Rebellion; Civil War amendments, suffrage amendments, the Civil Rights Movement; education reform, speed limits and drinking age; as well as the current debate on illegal immigration.

Have students research the immigration requirements in place in other nations and compare them to those of the United States. For their chosen country, students should research the following questions:

  • What rights, privileges, and responsibilities do undocumented immigrants have in this country?
  • What power do police or other enforcement agencies have to verify the status of immigrants?
  • How fully are these laws enforced?
  • How does this country’s policy compare and contrast with US policy?
  • Should this nation’s policy be a model for our own? Why or why not?