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SB on SB1070

Friends and family back home have asked my opinion of Arizona's new immigration law, Senate Bill 1070. Having grown up in Louisiana, I know from odd politics: The very first time I got to exercise my right to vote, I had the privilege of choosing between a Klansman and a felon.*

If you listen to the wailing on both sides, you would think that SB1070 was written by a blood-thirsty lynch mob of cross-burning Klansmen chasing after a meth-fueled gang of gun-running, home-invading felons. As with anything extruded by the legislative process, the issue is a bit more complex.

So as a former Louisiana voter, a retired "journalist" and a registered lobbyist with the state of Arizona, here's my take on Arizona's "tough stance on immigration reform" or SB on SB 1070, if you will.

According to recent polling by Gallup, Pew, Rasmussen and others, anywhere from 51% to 70% of Americans favor Arizona's "tough stance on immigration reform" ... but 70% to 95% have no idea what Senate Bill 1070 says or does.

So for your reading pleasure, I give you SB1070 and its companion bill, House Bill 2162 - now with 20% less racial profiling!

The first thing you should notice is that the companion bill, HB2162, was added about a week after Governor Jan Brewer signed SB1070 into law. The reason for this trailer (and for much of my dismay) is simple: SB1070 is not a well-written law.

SB1070 basically mirrors federal law in its language of enforcement, but in scope, it's a trainwreck of legislation gone bad.

Originally, SB1070 said that any lawful CONTACT in which an officer has reasonable suspicion to believe you are in the country illegally requires that officer to check your immigration status, or as the kids say, "ask for your papers." As it was written, I could be walking my dogs down the street, and if Officer Friendly waved at us (i.e. made contact), we could be stopped. HB2162 clarified that an immigration status report must occur only within the confines of "ANY LAWFUL STOP, DETENTION OR ARREST."

So, contrary to what civil rights activist Shakira, Middle East peace negotiator Linda Ronstadt, legendary anti-Semite Al Sharpton and former-Mel Gibson-sidekick-turned-defender-of-the-poor Danny Glover may tell you, as SB1070 is now written, you have to be doing something ILLEGAL (besides just being here ILLEGALLY) in order to be asked for your immigration papers. In this regard, it's a lot like a seat belt violation: The cops can't pull you over because they suspect you're not wearing a seat belt (at least they can't in my state) - but they can ticket you for a seat belt violation when they pull you over for speeding... or reckless driving... or a busted tail light.

This is not to say we couldn't have a racist Policewoman of Maricopa County going rogue on "lawful stops, detentions or arrests" ... which is why HB2612 had more work to do...

Initially the law said police "may not SOLELY consider race, color or national origin in implementing (the law) except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona constitution" ... which raised the question, "If we can't use race or color SOLELY, can we try the daily double? Or do we get more points with the trifecta?" Recognizing that our law enforcement officers would be violating people's civil rights as written, HB2162 struck the word "SOLELY." Now you can't use race, color or national origin at all, except where the constitution permits. Not that anyone - including Governor Jan Brewer - knows exactly what the constitution permits. As she said, "I don't know what an illegal immigrant looks like."

If the commander-in-chief of our great state of Arizona doesn't know what an illegal immigrant looks like, how can we expect our beat officers to do so?

Fortunately, with SB1070, the buck stops with the cities and counties (who don't have a lot of bucks in the bank to begin with): If an officer starts violating people's civil rights and is slapped with a lawsuit, the county or municipal government is required to defend (indemnify) the officer.

But SB1070 gets worse: To prevent left-leaning cities like Tucson and Phoenix to become dreaded "sanctuary cities" where they don't ask about immigration status during lawful stops or bookings, the law says that any concerned citizen or Tea Party activist can sue a county or municipality if they do not believe the law is being enforced properly.

Re-read that statement and consider this: A majority of citizens in Arizona (and several elected officials outside of Arizona - I'm looking at you Former Governor / Homeland Security Secretary Janet "The Border is Secure" Napolitano) admit they have not read SB1070 and do not understand the devilish details. Yet the law gives them power to sue the cities to ensure proper enforcement?

Due to our state's budget crisis, many of our Arizona cities and towns can't afford to keep municipal services open five days a week, and we're asking them to defend against potentially frivolous, time-consuming and costly lawsuits? With SB1070, our police chiefs and municipalities are basically damned if they do and damned if they don't: If their officers enforce the law too well, aka racial profiling, they get sued. If a concerned (but likely uninformed) citizen doesn't think they are enforcing the law well enough, they get sued. This is not good public policy.

Regardless of your position on immigration, SB1070 is not the solution we needed to the very real problems we face in Arizona - and across this nation - so let's get to those, shall we?

1) VISAs - They're everywhere you want to be, especially in this country.
Of the more than 11 million people that are in this country illegally, roughly half are here on expired visas. Let me rephrase that: WE LET THEM INTO THIS COUNTRY AND LOST TRACK OF THEM ONCE THEY GOT HERE. Read the full story and consider this: According to the 9/11 Commission Report, many of the hijackers were in this country on tourist or student visas, or at the very least they'd applied for them. And we're worried about lettuce-pickers, dish-washers and hotel-room maids? Really?

2) Border Crime - Even in Scottsdale.
You may have heard that Phoenix is the Kidnapping Capital of the United States. Many will argue that this type of behavior is only in certain barrios rife with illegal immigrants. Think again.

We are fortunate to live in one of the toniest ZIP codes in Arizona - others in our neighborhood actually consider our street with its three-bedroom / two-bath tract houses to be "ghetto." I don't take offense because, they're right! We actually had a human-smuggling drop house on our street two years ago. Over the long New Years weekend, we witnessed a blue mini-van shuttling to and from a vacant house. Various people of Latino origin went in and out. Call me a racist, but I defaulted to stereotype and assumed they were a landscaping or housekeeping crew getting the house ready for sale. That is, until the Realtor went to check on the property, unlocked the door and was greeted by 22 bare-footed men running out into the desert and freedom. (According to the Scottsdale Police Department, smugglers will steal the immigrants' shoes to discourage them from running away). Apparently they were locked inside this house with no electricity or running water, waiting to be taken to their next locale, which I'm sure smelled lovely after three days. Scottsdale PD said they see this quite frequently because so few residents in the 85255 ZIP code are around during the holidays - or during the summer. Many of the houses in our neighborhood are second homes and "no one would expect that kind of stuff here in Scottsdale." Plus we have ready access to the freeway.

Human smuggling and drug running are two lucrative rackets that profit heavily from a porous border. I never thought I'd be able to speak to that first hand. I'm not afraid of the bare-footed men trying to make a living for themselves or their families... but the people that brought them to that house scare the hell out of me. Both human smuggling and drug running are generated by demand on this side of the border that make it an economically rational option for people on that side of the border to be our suppliers of cheap lettuce.

The kingpins moving this human cargo across our border can just as easily move drugs, guns or more serious threats to our national security. All it takes is money.

3) It's the Economics, Stupid.
Roughly 20% of all people incarcerated in Maricopa County jails are in this country illegally. The statistics are actually pretty frightening - but we're talking about economics, not border security.

When she was governor of Arizona - just 18 months ago - Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sent a series of invoices to then-President George W. Bush for the cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants. The last invoice was for $350 million. This year, state treasurer (and GOP gubernatorial candidate) Dean Martin (his real name) sent Secretary Napolitano an invoice for the grand total of $1 billion, including interest. Oddly, he got the same response from her that she got from Bush.

She says the border is now secure. Really? What's changed? Her address, according to my Dad.

And that's just the cost of incarceration. The tab doesn't include emergency medical services and education - including English-as-a-second-language classes for their children who didn't ask to be brought here but are automatic citizens if they are born here.

Let's talk economies of scale for just a moment: According to the Wall Street Journal, after oil, remittances to Mexico from citizens living abroad are that country's second-largest source of hard currency, ahead of tourism and manufacturing. In the first nine months of 2009, Mexican emigrants sent home $16.4 BILLION - a decline of 13% from the year before.

When Mexico president Felipe Calderon criticizes SB1070, keep in mind that his second largest source of foreign revenue BEHIND OIL comes in part from this porous border. To keep those remittances coming, his government published a comic book instructing HIS CITIZENS on how to cross our border safely... but illegally.

What would be the economic impact if more of that money remained within our borders because his people had legal ways to enter this country to work and invest their savings? How would the Mexican economy respond if it were not riddled with corruption and people on that side of the border had access to a good education and a living wage?

4) What part of ILLEGAL don't you understand?
For all of Al Sharpton's breathless marching and Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon's flip-flopping (here... and here) and U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva's back-stabbing grand-standing, SB1070 sponsor Sen. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) has a Zen-like response: What part of ILLEGAL don't you understand?

I - and many of my fellow Arizonans - recognize that illegal immigrants are just trying to make their way in the world, and we also have to recognize that almost every aspect of our economy is lubricated by their labor. From the roof over your head (construction) to the food on your table (agriculture), the American economy depends on low-skilled workers to run efficiently and cost-effectively. The majority are hard-working people, and I believe they deserve a chance to do jobs that you and I have no interest in pursuing.

This is not a racial issue: It is a law enforcement issue.

Our federal government - on both sides of the aisle - has fumbled the ball. Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of all conservatives, granted amnesty to an estimated 3 million illegal immigrants back in the 1980s... and then he failed to secure the border. Now we have the same problem, four-fold, and the stakes are higher: If our FEDERAL government can't keep track of the 5.5 million people they allowed into this country through visas, how can they be righteous about the other 5.5 million that are trampling across a fragile desert ecosystem (and absolutely destroying it while endangering their own lives)? If the FEDERAL government isn't willing to secure the border to prevent gun-running, drug-smuggling and human trafficking, how can they keep us safe from a biological or chemical agent that slips across in the dead of night?

The state of Arizona has enough problems, and frankly we are fed up with having to foot the bill for one that is rightfully the responsibility of our federal government. Is SB1070 the best solution? Hell no, but if it nudges the federal government into accepting, enforcing and PAYING FOR its responsibilities, then ultimately, Arizona's "tough new stance on immigration" is a good thing.


*I picked the felon. In this instance my money is on the felon (or actually, misdemeanor-committer) for the simple, very Republican, reason that economics trumps all motivators. Most people want to improve their lots in life. Hard-working people have flocked to our shores for centuries because our economic and educational system enables most anyone to work hard and better their standard of living for themselves and their children. They will keep coming here without permission until the feds pull their heads out of the sand and figure out a way to make border-crossing a secure, orderly, trackable process.


Hey Girl,
Good info. Your conclusion, law enforecement problem, is dead on. A nudge toward a rational effort on behalf of our 'leadership' would be nice. I doubt many illegals will have their day ruined by law ennforcement. The cop is the one caught in the middle as you point out. So NOTHING will be done EXCEPT Americans will continue to be victims more so than illegals. What really bothers me is the illegals that are NOT from Mexico or even this hemisphere that know how easy it is to get into the country. Meanwhile Americans go about their lives and the PC Culture continues to threaten our freedoms and our existence. As Charles Krauthammer said months ago, "I am out of outrage." The current 'in your face' attitutde by 'The ONE' and our 'leaders' in DC is potentially more damaging than this issue.

AWESOME!!! Love ya SB.