Friday, April 23, 2010

UPDATE! Illegal Immigration is Illegal - So Why Doesn't Obama like the AZ Law?


Ariz. governor signs immigration bill into law
Measure Obama called 'misguided' has raised concern of civil rights backers

2:54 Mountain Time - 4/23/10

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday signed into law a new state immigration bill that President Barack Obama called "misguided" hours earlier.
Brewer, saying that the state had been "more than patient waiting for Washington to act," on the issue of illegal immigration, said that the bill would protect Arizona citizens without violating individuals' constitutional rights.

The sweeping legislation makes it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. It also requires local police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegally.

At a press conference to announce her decision to sign the bill, the Arizona governor countered the claim of opponents who have said that the law essentially legalizes racial profiling.
"I will not tolerate racial discrimination or racial profiling in Arizona," Brewer said.

Obama warned earlier Friday that the law "threaten[s] to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe."

He said he's instructed the Justice Department to examine he Arizona bill to see if it's legal, and said the federal government must enact immigration reform at the national level — or leave the door open to "irresponsibility by others."

Party pressure

Brewer was under intense pressure from anti-illegal immigration groups and lawmakers in her own party to sign the bill.

The bill's Republican sponsor, state Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, said Obama and other critics of the bill were "against law enforcement, our citizens and the rule of law."

Pearce said the legislation would remove "political handcuffs" from police and help drive illegal immigrants from the state.

"Illegal is illegal," said Pearce, a driving force on the issue in Arizona. "We'll have less crime. We'll have lower taxes. We'll have safer neighborhoods. We'll have shorter lines in the emergency rooms. We'll have smaller classrooms."

Hundreds of Hispanics protested the legislation at the State Capitol complex on Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat who opposes the measure, said he's closing his Arizona offices at noon Friday after his staff in Yuma and Tucson were flooded with calls this week, some from people threatening violent acts and shouting racial slurs.

Arizona has an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants and is the state with the most illegal border crossings, with the harsh, remote desert serving as the gateway for thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans.

Other provisions of the bill allow lawsuits against government agencies that hinder enforcement of immigration laws, and make it illegal to hire illegal immigrants for day labor or knowingly transport them.

The bill takes effect 90 days after the current legislative session ends.

Brewer faces a contested Aug. 24 Republican primary election, and one of her opponents, State Treasurer Dean Martin, had called on her to sign the legislation.



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Obama slams pending Ariz. immigration law
Gov. faces Saturday deadline; law requires suspected illegals to show I.D.

President Barack Obama on Thursday criticized a pending Arizona law that would make it a state crime to be in the United States illegally and require anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant to produce identification.

During remarks at a naturalization ceremony for members of the military, Obama called the legislation "misguided" and warned that it could "threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans."

Gov. Jan Brewer is nearing a deadline to act on the measure. Civil rights activists have said the bill would lead to racial profiling and deter Hispanics from reporting crimes. Hundreds of Hispanics protested the legislation at the State Capitol complex on Thursday.

A Saturday deadline for Brewer, a Republican, to act on the bill was set on Monday when the legislation arrived on her desk. She can sign, veto or allow it to become law without her signature.

Asked Thursday if she is concerned that the immigration bill could lead to racial profiling in the state, Brewer said that she is still considering the effects of the legislation.

"I've been meeting with lawyers, and I’ve been looking at it very diligently," she said.

Brewer, who became governor after Janet Napolitano left to lead the Department of Homeland Security, is facing a primary challenge from a handful of Republicans in August. Republican Sen. John McCain, who also is facing a primary challenge from the right, has said he supports the legislation.

Obama said Thursday that he has asked members of his administration to "closely monitor" the situation.

He warned that failure to act at a federal level to pass comprehensive immigration reform would only open the floodgates to irresponsible and overreaching measures on the state level, referring directly to "efforts in Arizona."

Nation's busiest border crossing

Arizona has an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants and is the nation's busiest border crossing point.

Other provisions of the bill allow lawsuits against government agencies that hinder enforcement of immigration laws, and make it illegal to hire illegal immigrants for day labor or knowingly transport them.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Russell Pearce of Mesa, said it would remove "political handcuffs" from police and help drive illegal immigrants from the state.

"Illegal is illegal," said Pearce, a driving force on the issue in Arizona. "We'll have less crime. We'll have lower taxes. We'll have safer neighborhoods. We'll have shorter lines in the emergency rooms. We'll have smaller classrooms."

The bill would take effect 90 days after the current legislative session ends if it becomes law.

The March 27 shooting death of rancher Bob Krentz on his property in southeastern Arizona has brought illegal immigration and border security into greater focus in the state. Authorities believe Krentz was killed by an illegal border crosser.

Since the shooting, Brewer and other officeholders and candidates have toured the state's border with Mexico. On Thursday, she ordered a reallocation of state National Guard and law enforcement resources and called on the federal government to deploy National Guard troops.

Arizona has previously passed a variety of get-tough measures dealing with illegal immigration.

Napolitano, a Democrat, vetoed proposals similar to the bill just approved by the Legislature.

But she signed a 2007 law that imposes sanctions against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Other state laws make human smuggling a state crime and restrict illegal immigrants' eligibility for public services.

Unconstitutional?

The Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund said the bill before Brewer is unconstitutional because regulation of immigration is a federal responsibility.

Others urging Brewer to veto the bill include Catholic bishops, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, and Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee for governor. Mexico's embassy also has voiced concerns about racial profiling.

A Phoenix Law Enforcement Association representative acknowledged that racial profiling can occur but said fears associated with the bill are unfounded.

"We're not targeting any particular group," said Levi Bolton, a retired police detective. "Cops are not here to do these things to you."

NBC's Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg contributed to this report.

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