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Reader Participation Day: Has Arizona's Approach To Controlling Illegal Immigrants Led You To Cancel a Grand Canyon Trip?


The Grand Canyon, as viewed from Mohave Point. NPS photo.

Are you rethinking that trip to the Grand Canyon or Saguaro National Park due to the approach Arizona officials are taking towards illegal immigration?

Arizona's move to require police to check anyone's U.S. residency status if it might be in doubt is drawing quite a bit of criticism. Already there's some evidence that folks from outside Arizona who oppose the law are canceling trips to the Grand Canyon State.

Are you?


To the readers who think a driver's license or id is enough to prove citizenship, there is this from the US consulate:

Proof of U.S. Citizenship can be demonstrated by a:

a full validity U.S. passport
Certified U.S. birth certificate; or
Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240); or
Certificate of Citizenship or Naturalization from USCIS

I don't know about anyone else, but I don't usually travel around my country with my passport in hand, much less my certified birth certificate. I was told years ago when I was visiting Canada, that a driver's license does not constitute proof of citizenship.

Considering how illegal immigrants and drug runners have made places like Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument downright dangerous, this law may have an up side!

You have to understand, however, that this new law is mostly political theater. It is designed to provoke the feds into doing what they were supposed to do all along: securing the border.

I'll preface this by saying that I'm not a fan of this law as written. It's horribly written with the only criteria for law enforcement detaining someone and asking for proof of legal status. I'm actually a bit concerned that US born people and naturalized US citizens with minor to heavy accents might be disproportionately targeted. It requires that legal aliens keep their status IDs on them at all times, but that's already a requirement for greencard holders over the age of 18. It also states that local LE can accept an Arizona driver license as prima facie evidence of legal status. Arizona now has a requirement for documents that "demonstrate" legal status to get a DL, but they've got a huge loophole too. Someone with an older DL from before the status checks can still renew. They also accept a DL from another state with current status checks as a demonstration of legal status, but many of those states renew older licenses without rechecking.

While NPS LE rangers do generally enforce state and local laws, my reading of this Arizona law is that it can't apply to federal law enforcement officers.

I really doubt that the police around the Grand Canyon areas are going to be seriously using this law's provisions for stopping people without suspicion of committing a crime. Tourism is their lifeblood, and I'm sure the local law enforcement know that and doesn't want to create a situation where some tourist with an accent (and there are a lot of them visiting the Grand Canyon) gets unnecessarily detained just because he didn't have his passport with visa on him. My reading of this law is that it doesn't state that tourists visiting the United States are required to keep their documents on them at all times. A lot of people store their passports in hotel safes.

My worry would be that a tourist or US citizen is going to be hassled, or that a legal permanent resident who forgets his wallet at home is going to be fined. I suppose there is a federal requirement, but that's almost never enforced.

It doesn't make it a Godwin's Law violation to realize that every movie ever made about the Nazi's has a scene where an authority uses the phrase "Papers please?" Since I live in Washington State I have to wonder what a similar law here would mean - to challenge everyone who looks like they may be an illegal Canadian immigrant.

"I'm actually a bit concerned that US born people and naturalized US citizens with minor to heavy accents might be disproportionately targeted."

Then maybe they (US born and naturalized US citizens) should themselves work to rid the country of illegal aliens of their nationality. If they weren't disproportionately illegal, they would not be disproportionately targeted.

Well if your tickets are unrefundable I'd be delighted to visit and spend money in AZ.

Heck no. I definitely will feel a lot safer once Arizona implements their new law. I may even be able to leave my sidearm at home. We are now planning to make a trip there this fall unless the economy keeps its death slide going or the courts overturn the law. Lots of things we have missed on our past trips there. I may even try to replace the Nalgene bottle I bought at Saguaro NP and almost immediately lost at a truck stop!

I disagree with the new law, but it's ridiculous to cancel travel plans to Arizona because of it. I'm from South Carolina, and before I moved to Colorado nearly a decade ago, the NAACP launched a boycott of the state mostly because of the Legislature's insistence on flying the Confederate battle flag prominently on the Statehouse grounds. The placement of that flag is appalling, waving front-and-center before one of the main entrances to the Capitol and illustrating for many that the racism inherent in the romanticizing and prominent commemoration of Confederate history remains alive and well in South Carolina. Do I refuse to visit my birthplace because of it? Do I refuse to learn more about that history spelled out in so many NPS sites in the state? Not a chance.

Much more can be gleaned from visiting and attempting to learn more about a place with controversial laws and attitudes toward immigrants and other minorities than by refusing to go there.

That said, the federal Border Patrol checkpoints surrounding border cities do make the region feel a bit like a police state, but that's not limited to Arizona. Pay a visit to Big Bend National Park or El Paso and you'll see what I mean. I was traveling with a Native American and native New Mexican friend of mine in southern New Mexico a few years ago, and when we stopped at the checkpoint on I-25 north of Las Cruces, we were interrogated for 20 minutes. Inexcusable.

Finally, though I think the new law is unjust in a variety of ways, I visited Saguaro National Park two weeks ago and was nearly run off the road in the Tucson Mountain District by a Border Patrol SUV chasing someone. Something has to be done. I hope discourse on this issue doesn't devolve any further because it's incredibly complex.

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