Background on why SB 1070 even existsby Hugh Holub on Jul. 25, 2010, under border issues, politics, SB 1070
A really good analysis of the background for why SB 1070 even exists in Sunday’s Arizona Republic.
If you really want to know what is going on in Arizona these days, sad to say that it is better to read the Republic than Tucson’s Daily Star.
Arizona immigration law ripples through history, U.S. politics
by on Jul.25, 2010, under Arizona Republic News
In just three months, Arizona’s controversial new immigration law has shaken the national political scene, viewed either as a civil-rights abomination or the symbol of a state stepping up to do a difficult job that the U.S. government refuses to do.
The law, which goes into effect Thursday unless a federal judge says otherwise, has drawn criticism from President Barack Obama and put Arizona into a historic legal showdown with his administration. The Justice Department is suing to stop its implementation.
Commonly known as Senate Bill 1070, the measure has stirred a national outcry over fears of widespread racial profiling. It has led to economic boycotts of Arizona as well as an outpouring of support and expressions of solidarity from supporters in other states. It is influencing election-year politics around the United States.
SB 1070 appeared to strike Washington and the rest of the country like a thunderbolt when Gov. Jan Brewer signed it on April 23. But in Arizona, it was years in the making, just the latest manifestation of an increasing political antagonism toward illegal immigration. It was spurred by a perception that the federal government wasn’t taking action on the issue. That frustration likely was exacerbated, some say, by economic anxiety amid the recession and the still-unsolved March 27 slaying of longtime Cochise County cattleman Robert Krentz near the border.
Arizona’s law makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally. It states that a law-enforcement officer engaged in a lawful stop, detention or arrest shall, when practicable, ask about a person’s legal status when reasonable suspicion exists that the person is in the United States illegally.
The architect was state Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who for nearly a decade has worked on a steady stream of anti-illegal-immigration measures that include the state’s employer-sanctions law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2008, and is now awaiting review by the U.S. Supreme Court. He also was a champion of 2004′s voter-approved Proposition 200, which requires Arizonans to show proof of citizenship to register to vote and to show an ID when casting a ballot in person. A precursor to SB 1070 passed the Legislature as early 2006, but then-Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed it. Pearce now is contemplating a bill that would deny birth certificates to Arizona-born children of illegal immigrants.
State Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, a Pearce ally who helped write part of this year’s immigration law, said the federal government’s chronic inability to deal with illegal immigration forced Arizona lawmakers to act. He pointed to national polls expressing support for the state’s measure, saying the law’s popularity suggests Washington is out of step with the rest of America.
“We’ll do whatever is necessary to protect ourselves,” Kavanagh said. “And based upon Washington’s response to this law, more will be needed.”
U.S. policy to blame?
The roots of Arizona’s current immigration tensions stretch back long before Pearce took his legislative oath of office in 2001.
Many point to Operation Gatekeeper during President Bill Clinton’s administration as the starting point for the current difficulties. The 1994 initiative effectively fortified the Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector and cut off what had been a favorite route of illegal immigrants from Mexico.
A similar 1993 effort called Operation Hold the Line had toughened enforcement in the El Paso Sector, which had been another busy immigrant crossing point.
The result was a funnel effect that greatly increased the flow of illegal immigrants into Arizona. A booming state economy also proved so attractive to migrant workers that many did not hesitate to risk their lives trying to cross the unforgiving desert to gain entry.
“So here we are: Arizona becomes the principal corridor and Arizona becomes the principal place where you have this massive reaction against the undocumented,” said Alfredo Gutierrez, a former longtime Democratic state lawmaker from Phoenix and a high-profile anti-SB 1070 activist. “It didn’t boil over instantly. Like most things, it took a few years, but we’ve arrived at the point where it’s boiled over, where the state really is at a place where it’s tearing itself apart.”
U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., recalled getting a crash course on Arizona’s border problems during his first run for the Senate in 1994. At the time, Kyl was a U.S. representative from a Phoenix-area congressional district. After learning about the issue, Kyl made a point to meet with then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno when she was in Phoenix in September 1994.
“I said, ‘You don’t know it, but you’ve got a big problem on the southern border around Nogales, Arizona.’ Of course, my district in the House was far from there, so I didn’t fully appreciate the issue. I said, ‘You have got to, among other things, increase your Border Patrol presence and begin to get a handle on it.’ ”
Upon winning his statewide election, Kyl successfully teamed up with fellow U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on legislation to double the number of Border Patrol agents and has been working to address related border issues ever since.
“We never were able to get ahead of the problem,” said Kyl, now the U.S. Senate minority whip, or the chamber’s No. 2 GOP leader. “It’s a good thing that we started then, putting these resources on the border, because we’d be way behind the eight ball if we hadn’t done that.”
Kyl said he didn’t consider either Clinton or President George W. Bush particularly “forceful” or proactive on border security and that Obama so far has tended to react only to political pressure.
Under Operation Jump Start, Bush temporarily sent 6,000 National Guard troops to the southwestern border in 2006. He also boosted Border Patrol numbers to more than 20,000. Obama recently announced the deployment of 1,200 National Guard troops to work on border security.
Job, crime fears
Despite strong support from Bush, Congress in 2006 and 2007 failed to pass comprehensive immigration packages that attempted to balance border-security measures with reforms, such as a guest-worker program and a pathway to legalization for many of the millions of undocumented workers already in the country. Obama called comprehensive reform a priority during the 2008 presidential campaign, but Democrat-controlled Capitol Hill so far has made little progress on the issue.
In 2006, Arizona voters overwhelmingly approved three immigration-crackdown ballot proposals plus another to make English the state’s official language.
As the decade wore on, a worsening U.S. economy hardened some opinions toward immigration in general.
“When the economy’s tough, is it easy to believe that these people are coming across the border and taking jobs away from Anglos that want them?” said Bruce Merrill, a veteran Arizona political scientist and pollster. “Well, sure, even though that’s not what the evidence shows.”
Meanwhile, a raging drug war in Mexico fueled worries that its horrific violence could spill over the border.
The Krentz homicide, which law-enforcement authorities speculate may have been related to smuggling from Mexico, is cited by some as a turning point in the push for SB 1070, although Kavanagh and other legislative insiders give it less credit than some outside observers.
“Come on, the ball was already rolling,” said state Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, the assistant House minority leader who had hoped to kill the bill. “My opinion is that had nothing to do with it. All it did was give cover to some of the people who didn’t want to vote yes but ended up voting yes.”
But U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., whose congressional district includes Cochise County, said the Krentz slaying “drew the nation’s attention to the fact that the border is not a secure place” and helped change the dynamics of the debate.
“There’s a lot of frustration over the federal government’s inability to solve the problem,” Giffords said. “They’ve done a much better job managing Southern California and southern Texas. This has not happened overnight. This has been years and years of neglect.”
Challenges to the law
Arizona’s law has generated seven lawsuits in U.S. District Court, including Obama-administration litigation that challenges it as an unconstitutional attempt by Arizona to usurp federal authority over immigration policy. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and like-minded groups are suing on civil-rights grounds.
“I have never felt the racism that you are feeling in Arizona today because of this bill,” said Mary Rose Wilcox, a Democratic Maricopa County supervisor who is hoping U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton will block SB 1070 from going into effect.
The furious, and fearful, reaction to Brewer’s decision to sign the bill caught both backers and opponents of the legislation off guard.
“The majority of us who voted yes on that bill, myself included, did not expect or encourage an outcry from the public,” said state Rep. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale. “The majority of us just voted for it because we thought we could try to fix the problem. Nobody envisioned boycotts. Nobody anticipated the emotion, the prayer vigils. The attitude was: These are the laws, let’s start following them.”
Sinema said even foes of the bill didn’t foresee the national argument that SB 1070 started.
“I knew it would be bad, but no one thought it would be this big,” she said. “No one.”