LINE DRAWN IN ARIZONA SAND
By Mark Anderson
PHOENIX, Ariz.—What strikes you the most when you speak with Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce is his steely determination to prevail. “Enough is enough,” he kept saying, during his July 13 exclusive interview with this writer, referring to the flood of illegal aliens crossing into Arizona from Mexico that he pledges to stop.
Pearce, himself a former Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputy, authored the world-famous law, S.B. 1070, to finally make a genuine effort to stop that flood—which carries human and narcotics trafficking with it and causes a kidnapping wave that is so bad that Pearce is super-anxious for S.B. 1070 to take effect July 29.
That is the 90-day mark since the Legislature passed the bill and Gov. Jan Brewer signed it into law. That is how all approved laws are handled in Arizona—three months from “the pen” to enforcement.
Pearce revealed that he has been trying to pass a law much like S.B. 1070 since at least 2007. With a sigh of relief, he said he’s glad it finally came to fruition.
However, the challenges have just begun. Since S.B. 1070’s passage last April, even Barack Obama has indicated an allegiance with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, siding with a foreign leader against a law passed by Arizona.
Referring to his state’s scary level of kidnappings and human smuggling, Pearce said: “Arizona . . . especially Phoenix, is No. 2 in the world behind Mexico City,” adding, “this is an epidemic—a tsunami across this nation.”
But this far-from-ordinary law from an extraordinary legislator is causing the expected swarm of lawsuits and controversy. As this AFP edition went to press, a pivotal federal court hearing in Phoenix, in Judge Susan Bolton’s courtroom, was slated for July 22, where Bolton will hear arguments from five plaintiffs, including the American Civil Liberties Union, whose separate suits were rolled into one larger lawsuit. The Department of Justice filed separately, but all the plaintiffs are seeking a federal injunction to stop S.B. 1070 from taking effect July 29.
“We know we are on firm ground,” Pearce said. When asked about the law’s chances of survival, he predicted that should this case go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the vote will be 5-4 or 6-3 in his favor.
“The judge will take this under advisement . . . but she has had very little time. She was very critical of the Department of Justice for waiting so long to file,” he said of the Phoenix court hearing.
According to Pearce, past court decisions already are on his side. He cited numerous legal precedents in federal court—including the 1st, 5th, 6th, 9th and 10th circuits—where cases involving relevant matters were decided favorably from his vantage point. And in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the notoriously liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals with a stunning 9-0 vote in the Muehler vs. Mena case.
The Western New England College School of Law notes that in this ruling (see second part of it), “(a) it was not unreasonable to handcuff the occupant of a house for two to three hours during the execution of a search warrant for weapons and evidence of gang membership, and (b) the officers’ questioning of the occupant about her immigration status was not an intrusion requiring independent reasonable suspicion.”
Pearce also pointed out that state and local police can and do enforce the law regarding various federal violations, such as when a state police officer arrests someone for a federal firearms violation. The defendant may be tried in federal court, but the arresting officers do not have to be federal agents. Pearce knows from his 23 years as a police officer that local and state police arrest people who violate federal laws—and immigration laws should be no different.
What the embattled S.B. 1070 does, essentially, is make it a violation of state law to be in Arizona illegally. Pearce referred AFP to his RussellPearce.com web site, where he states:
S.B. 1070 simply codifies federal law into state law and removes excuses and concerns about states’ inherent authority to enforce these laws and removes all so-called “sanctuary” policies. . . . It is a crime to enter or remain in the U.S. in violation of federal law 8USC 1324 and 1325.
States have inherent authority to enforce immigration laws and yet [have] failed or refused to do so. Sanctuary policies are illegal under federal law (8 USC 1644 and 1373), yet we have them all over the United States.
The new Arizona law mirrors federal law, which already requires aliens (non-citizens) to register and carry their documents with them (8 USC 1304[e] and 8 USC 1306[a]). The new Arizona law simply states that violating federal immigration law is now a state crime as well. Because illegal immigrants are by definition in violation of federal immigration laws, they can now be arrested by local law enforcement in Arizona.
The law is designed to avoid the legal pitfall of “preemption,” which means a state cannot adopt laws that conflict with federal laws. By making what is a federal violation also a state violation, the Arizonan law avoids this problem.
Broadly speaking, S.B. 1070 reflects a trend that started making big headlines in 2006 when Hazleton, Penn., Mayor Lou Barletta decided that employers hiring illegal aliens and landlords housing them in that eastern Pennsylvanian city would not be tolerated.
Barletta won approval of a city ordinance to target the problem, observing that while immigration issues are embodied in federal law, federal authorities usually are not up to the task of enforcing the law in a consistent
and reliable manner.
Thus, the concept of a local government or state government taking decisive action has achieved traction, which is really a bold move toward more local and state independence—a troubling prospect for a highly centralized federal government that only recognizes other authority when some global group, say the European Union or the G-20, wants to make major changes. The states, which created the federal government—and the people, cities and towns within them—do not count.
“We will prevail,” Pearce said of the imminent court hearing in Phoenix and whatever else lies ahead. “We’re ready for a fist fight. I know what we’re up against.”
And to charges of “racism” that are routinely heaped upon him by open-borders advocates, this legislator, of American Indian ancestry, replied: “Illegal is not a race; it is a crime.”
Pearce added: “This is an epic bill.” He compared the situation with the early battle between the so-called federalists who favored a strong central government and the state’s rights advocates who did not, during America’s founding era. And while citing the $2.7 billion it costs Arizona’s taxpayers annually in “hard costs,” just to “educate, medicate and incarcerate” illegal aliens, without other costs, such as county jailing and crime victims’ costs considered, Pearce declared:
“The states do not need a permission slip to arrest illegal aliens. But we have open-borders anarchists who say otherwise. Enough is enough. The states don’t just have the authority, they have an obligation [to act].”
Pearce told AFP that, by his estimation, 34 states are looking into passing similar laws, of which 20 are showing a strong interest.
“If you look at the polls, this is the most popular bill in the U.S. today,” he remarked. Arizonan landowners have been robbed and killed at the hands of illegal aliens, who are not just seeking perceived greener pastures but are, in some cases, involved in violent activities, he said.
“The government is complicit and has blood on its hands, because of the failure to enforce these laws,” said Pearce.
Mark Anderson is a longtime newsman now working as the editor for AFP. He and his wife Angie provide photographs and video of the events they cover for AFP. Listen to Mark’s radio show at republicbroadcasting.org, Sundays at 7pm central. Email him at at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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(Issue # 29 & 30, July 19 & 26, 2010)