Arizona Legislature Sends Immigration Bill to Governor

“Illegal is not a race, it’s a crime,” said Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce, responding to protests Monday after the Arizona Senate voted 17 to 11 to approve a controversial immigration enforcement law and lobbed it onto the incumbent governor’s desk for her signature.

Protestors held mock funerals outside the Phoenix Capital, criticizing the law as a mandate for the racial profiling of Hispanics. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund promised constitutional lawsuits against the legislation that makes it a violation of state law to be in the United States illegally. Gov. Jan Brewer has five days to either veto the bill or sign it before it becomes law without her signature.

More than a dozen of the state’s religious groups are holding prayer vigils urging Gov. Brewer to veto the bill, saying the law imposes discriminatory racial profiling that will destroy families and drain the already strained budgets of the state’s law enforcement agencies. Mexico’s embassy accused the Arizona’s lawmakers of racial profiling.

After the Senate voted, the Catholic Diocese of Los Angeles’ Cardinal Roger Mahoney, blogged, “I can’t imagine Arizonans now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of documentation.”

Letters, phone calls and emails to Brewer’s office have been running 3-1 in favor of the immigration reform bill following the murder of an Arizona rancher by an illegal border crosser.

Supporters of the bill cite the need to stop the increasing violent crime, drug smuggling and reduce the states’ massive expenditures for costly public services linked to illegal immigration. Arizona has the nation’s busiest border crossings and miles of remote, unsecured border. There are an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants in the state.

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, of the Desert Southwest Conference, United Methodist Church, said the bill is intolerant and worries that Arizona’s move will “cause a domino effect across the nation” of states passing similar immigration enforcement policies.

“This bill goes a long way to bringing law and order to the state,” said state Sen. Al Melvin (R-Tucson).

The Phoenix Police Department’s officers union supports the new law, but an association of the state’s police chiefs opposes it because of increased costs and lack of manpower and facilities needed to enforce the law.

As the Arizona Legislature prepared to vote, Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl, both Arizona Republicans, introduced a ten-step plan in Washington, D.C., to beef up border security that includes sending 3,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border, hiring more Border Patrol agents, increased aerial surveillance and fence construction. Although his office later said his comments were not an endorsement, McCain said the Arizona legislation is a “tool that I think needs to be used.”

“First we have to secure the border, McCain said. “If you want to enact some other reforms, how can that be effective when you have a porous border? It’s also a commentary on the frustration that our state Legislature has that the federal government has not fulfilled its constitutional responsibilities to secure our borders.”