Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the state’s hot-potato immigration enforcement bill on Friday and pledged to enforce the measure without resorting to racial profiling.
Calling it “a step forward for Arizona,” Brewer signed the legislation then declared she “would not tolerate racial profiling or discrimination in Arizona.” Polls show that 70% of Arizona voters support the bill, SB-1070 .
She also issued an executive order that directs Arizona’s law enforcement officers to undergo training to properly enforce the immigration law and said she would consider “improvements” to the bill through the end of the year. The law goes into effect 90 days after the close of the legislation session.
A hush fell over the crowd of about 1,000 protestors as they listened to Brewer’s words, but a murmur that grew in tone spread quickly. Pro-immigration protestors outside Arizona’s capital swelled above a thousand. Law enforcement officers and private security kept those protesters separate from a smaller crowd of pro-immigration reform supporters.
The coalition against the bill included Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D.-Ariz.), and a host of political, religious and pro-immigrant individuals and organizations who urged the governor to veto the bill. Grijalva, who called for a business boycott of his own state when the bill went to the governor’s desk, closed his state offices after reporting telephone death threats made against his staff.
President Obama earlier on Friday labeled the law “irresponsible” and “misguided,” saying he will have the law’s constitutional consequences investigated by administration lawyers. Obama admitted that Arizona’s action was a response to the federal government’s failure to secure the border and address the immigration problems of border states. Ironically, murdered Arizona rancher Rob Krentz said the same thing several years before he was shot earlier this month by a suspected illegal border crosser.
The bill makes it a violation of state law to be in the United States illegally. The bill also prohibits cities, counties and local government agencies from preventing the lawful enforcement of U.S. immigration regulations through so-called “sanctuary rules.”
The bills major provisions would:
* Make it a misdemeanor for immigrants to fail to complete and carry an alien registration document.
* Allows officers to arrest immigrants unable to show documents proving they are in the U.S. legally.
* Bans soft immigration enforcement and sanctuary rules by local governments and allows lawsuits against policies that hinder immigration law enforcement.
* Prohibits day laborers from impeding street traffic while seeking work.
* Outlaws the transport of illegal immigrants if drivers know the passengers are in the country illegally.
Arizona may have dropped a bombshell on the Obama Administration’s plans to push energy and climate legislation forward as its next major initiative. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), facing a possible loss in his November re-election bid, sent signs that immigration reform could be next on the Senate’s agenda even at the cost of delaying an energy bill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) said the House will follow the Senate’s lead if it passes an immigration bill, but will continue working first toward energy and climate legislation until the Senate acts.
Immigration reform without amnesty provisions for the 12 million-to-14 million illegal immigrants in the United States risks alienating Hispanic voters and would be detrimental to the election hopes of pro-immigration candidates and members of the Hispanic Caucus.
Immigration reform with amnesty could be equally damaging to Arizona Sen. John McCain’s re-election. He now leads Republican challenger and former Rep. J. D. Hayworth, an immigration enforcement hawk, by a mere five points in the latest polls. McCain, who alienated many conservatives during the Bush years for his support of immigration reform that included a path to citizenship, said he supported the new Arizona law. Like Brewer, McCain has joined the call for National Guard troops to be dispatched to the border, along with other measures to stem the flow of illegals and drugs from Mexico.
Phoenix high schools reported that several thousand students walked off their campuses but the number of protestors around the Capital Building only grew by several hundred. Some groups of students waved Mexican flags as the march began, but other students discouraged those displays and American flags were unfurled. Several busloads of pro-immigrant activists traveled from California to join the protest.
“People are watching Arizona,” Brewer said, adding that opponents will seize any opportunity to criticize and overturn the law and pledged that the new law would be enforced fairly.
“We are governed by laws, good laws,” Brewer said. “Those laws deserve respect.”