In Arizona, 'Reasonably Suspicious' is Exceedingly Unnerving

I’m not in favor of illegal immigration, or criminal activity in general. I understand the plight of honest, law-abiding citizens in the border areas who fear for their safety and feel that their own rights and liberties are slipping from their fingers. It makes perfect sense to me that people—Latino, Caucasian, African-American or whatever—should carry proof of identification and citizenship.

I agree that law enforcement should do all they can to apprehend and deport those who are in this country illegally. Some in Arizona, including the governor and state legislature, feel the same way, which is why Senate Bill 1070 is a reality. But here’s another reality: It is hurting many honest small businesses, namely landscape contractors. As written in the Bill, “reasonable suspicion” leaves the door wide open. (Reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person.) What is “reasonable suspicion”? Is a Hispanic operating a hedgetrimmer reasonably suspicious? From what I’m hearing, it might be.

It’s a shame that many landscape contractors who operate legally, ethically and professionally once again become collateral damage in an effort to stop those who don’t. There are approximately 1,100 licensed landscape contractors in the state of Arizona, more than 50% of which “turn over” every six months or so, according to Judy Gausman, CEO of the Arizona Landscape Contractors Association (ALCA). Less than a third (350) are ALCA members. All of them are affected by SB 1070.

Gausman says ALCA members have been given the tools to comply with the law through information distributed in the ALCA Influence magazine and through mass emails. ALCA has also provided a number of seminars presented by attorney Julie Pace that instruct landscape contractor owners.