Founder and Executive Director of National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
Posted: May 11, 2010 01:48 PM
Late last week, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty joined other civil and human rights organizations in the Arizona boycott, pulling out of a major public interest law conference planned in Phoenix this week for which we had organized a panel.
The boycott was precipitated by Arizona's adoption of a draconian new law that imposes harsh requirements on immigrants and gives police authority to stop and demand documents from anyone they have reason to suspect might be an illegal immigrant. Groups representing immigrants' rights, like the National Council of La Raza, are leading the boycott. But the issues at stake go beyond immigration, and the links to homelessness and poverty are pretty direct.
The law imposes requirements that are difficult or even impossible for many poor people to meet--regardless of immigration status--and grants police authority over complex social and political issues. It's a quick political "fix" that does more to appease perceived voter anxiety than to resolve real issues. As such, it risks further criminalizing poverty, and in particular, the extreme form of poverty that is homelessness.