Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Legislature needs to pay for SB 1070

If Arizona wants to get into the anti-immigration business it should stop doing it in half-measures.

The last time the state was whipped into a froth over immigration was 2007 when the Legislature passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act, more commonly known as the employer sanctions law.

It’s often been said that Arizona and the nation don’t have an illegal immigration problem as much as they have an illegal hiring problem.

The magnet that draws illegal immigrants across the border is jobs. If they couldn’t get jobs here, they wouldn’t come.

The employer sanctions law was supposed to be the fix, or so said the rhetoric coming out of the Legislature. The law allowed county attorneys to suspend the business licenses of employers caught knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.

But the law has been an abysmal failure. Few businesses have been investigated – most of them in Maricopa County – since it went into effect Jan. 1 2008 and only two have had their licenses suspended, one of which was already out of business when the sanction was imposed.

Yet an estimated 300,000 illegal immigrants remain employed in Arizona, many of them now getting paid in cash by unscrupulous employers or resorting to using more sophisticated forgeries and subterfuges to fool employers about their legal residency status.

The law failed partly because it relied on snitches to report illegal hiring but mostly because it was an unfunded mandate.

Instead of funding enforcement of the law, the Legislature simply required county attorneys to add investigations of snitched businesses to their already enormous workloads.

Without any funding to pay for investigators and training for prosecutors in complicated employment and immigration laws, most county attorneys just ignored the law.

Rather than learn a lesson from that failure, the Legislature is trying the same method again. It’s essentially deputizing every law enforcement officer in the state as an immigration cop but providing little to no funding to train them on how to do the job properly and without committing civil rights violations.

But this time, in order to force police agencies to take the law seriously, they’re allowing any citizen the right to sue a police agency to force it to enforce the law.

If the Republican legislative leaders who crafted SB 1070 were really serious about immigration enforcement, they would create a department of immigration enforcement and give it the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to crack down on human smuggling, illegal immigrants and the businesses that hire them.

Or at the very least, they would provide local law enforcement agencies and county prosecutors the tens of millions of dollars they will need to learn how to become immigration cops and to properly enforce federal immigration law.

There’s an old saying among political scientists that if you really want to know what a society’s priorities are, look at where its government spends its money.

If Sen. Russell Pearce and company are truly serous about this issue, then they need to put our money where their mouths are.

Instead, they’re more interested in passing the buck than collecting one to pay for this law.

Search site | Terms of service