House OKs Sweeping Immigration Bill

PHOENIX – Lawmakers Tuesday debated a bill that would make Arizona one of the toughest states for immigration enforcement. Outside, ranchers rallied for more border control but were drowned out by protesters voicing opposition to the tough new bill.

The Arizona House approved a bill that would draw local communities deeper into the fight against illegal immigration despite arguments from opponents that it would do nothing to keep people safer.

House Republicans advanced the measure on a 35-21 party-line vote. The Senate approved the bill in February but must concur to changes made in the House before sending it to Gov. Jan Brewer.

Supporters celebrated the bill as a tough crackdown on illegal immigration that will protect the state from violent criminals.

Arizona’s struggling economy has driven many illegal immigrants from the state. But as the economy rebounds, “so too will the illegal immigrants — larger, stronger and more destructive than they were several years ago,” said Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills.

“We need to put this law in place now so that when the new illegal immigrants come, we’re prepared to do battle with them,” he said.

The measure would create a new state misdemeanor crime of willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document. It would allow officers to arrest immigrants unable to show documents proving they’re legally in the country.

The proposal also would ban so-called soft immigration policies at local police agencies. It would allow people to sue if they feel a government agency has adopted a policy that hinders the enforcement of illegal immigration laws.

The provision is designed to target law enforcement policies that prevent officers from asking people about their immigration status, but opponents worry it will make victims and witnesses scared to work with police and prosecutors.

“This is a false hope for the people of Arizona. It’s a false sense of security for our neighborhoods,” said Rep. Chad Campbell, R-Phoenix.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who is one of Arizona’s loudest voices opposing illegal immigration.

Tuesday’s vote demonstrated Pearce’s political power at the Legislature and underscored the pressure on Republicans to support crackdowns on illegal immigration. The measure won support from all 35 House Republicans, including a handful who said they had serious concerns with the legislation.

“This bill is filled with problems, huge problems. But more importantly it will not stem the tide of illegal immigration,” Rep. Bill Konopnicki, R-Safford, said before adding that he feels “obligated” to support the bill anyway.

Konopnicki said the best way to address illegal immigration is with fences, electronic surveillance, air support and more border patrol agents.

Pearce’s bill also tries to crack down on employment opportunities for illegal immigrants by prohibiting people from blocking traffic when they seek or offer day-labor services on street corners.

The measure also would make it illegal for people to transport illegal immigrants if the drivers of vehicles know their passengers are in the country illegally and if the transportation furthers their illegal presence in the country.

The bill is being closely watched nationally by groups on both sides of the immigration debate.

Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, issued a statement condemning the House vote.

“Arizona has long been a laboratory for anti-immigrant experimentation, and its demagogue leaders have become folk heroes for white supremacists throughout the United States,” Newman said. “But this bill ushers in a new chapter of disgrace for the state that resisted celebrating the life of Martin Luther King.”

Arizona was one of the last states to create a holiday honoring the life of the slain civil rights leader.


Lawmakers channel ‘Lord of the Flies’

by E. J. Montini – Apr. 15, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Mom and dad (the federal government) left the kids (Arizona legislators) alone in the House (and Senate) and the children have run wild. And it’s beginning to look like the parents are NEVER coming back.

That’s how I described things to Chris Newman, legal director of the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network, after the Arizona House approved an immigration bill that would ratchet up law enforcement, legal penalties and emotions to a level unseen anywhere in the United States.

Newman had released a statement saying: “Arizona is on the verge of enacting the most anti-immigrant legislation the country has seen in a generation. We are hopeful Governor Brewer will consult with her legal counsel, issue a veto, and spare Arizona the expense of defending an unconstitutional, unwise, and odious bill in federal courts. Arizona has long been a laboratory for anti-immigrant experimentation, and its demagogue leaders have become folk heroes for White supremacists throughout the United States, but this bill ushers in a new chapter of disgrace for the state that resisted celebrating the life of Martin Luther King.”

He told me that if the Arizona law is enacted it would generate “multiple” federal lawsuits (just what a cash-strapped state needs).

But Newman also believes – or perhaps only wishes in a really, really, really big way – that what is happening in Arizona might finally cause the federal government to act.

“There is nothing like it (the Arizona legislation) in the rest of the country,” he said. “This bill makes the 2005 House Republican bill that people marched against by the millions seem like amnesty. The country considered a policy of immigration enforcement through attrition in 2005, and millions of people rejected that view. I really do think that one hopeful effect of this is that a coalition of civil-rights groups will coalesce in opposition to this policy.”

Newman called the law a “cry for federal reform.” If so, it’s a cry being drowned out by the shouts of residents.

The simple fact that I contacted Newman to ask his opinion of the legislation, and then wrote a blog about his comments for, touched off an explosion of angry responses.

And while it’s easy to be bold and plainspoken when you remain anonymous, the feelings expressed are real and widespread.

Or as a reader calling himself “Xp1″ wrote, “It’s time to kick all of the illegals out once and for all. I’m sick of hearing ‘It’s unconstitutional.’ These people have NO RIGHTS. They are here illegally. What do people not understand about that? . . . And Montini let me know when you want to leave the state. I’ll hold the door open for you.”

A few readers, like “PhxWhtMale” tried to take a practical approach, saying, “Whether you agree with the law or not, you have to ask yourself how it can be enforced. We can barely afford to enforce the laws we already have, (actually we probably only enforce half of them). Do we have room in the jails and courts, not to mention the police time to enforce this? They better tack a tax increase onto it if they want it to do anything.”

That’s the beginning of a grown-up conversation. One that we should have. But there are no grown-ups in the room. A legislator I spoke with Wednesday was lamenting the small group of politicians who seem to control the Capitol and care little about building consensus. And how the opposition is running scared.

“It’s like (the novel) ‘1984′ down here,” he said.

That’s the wrong book. There are adults in George Orwell’s classic.

I’d go with ‘”Lord of the Flies.”

Reach Montini at 602-444-8978 or

Source: AZ Republic