U.S. Legislative Immigration Update April 19, 2010

Right Side News brings you the latest legislative updates impacting our borders and immigration policies from the Federation for Immigration Reform::

  • Arizona Bill Cracks Down on Illegal Immigration
  • Reid Flip-Flop Draws Fire; Amnesty Lobby Threatens Action
  • In Wake of Rancher’s Murder, House Republicans Introduce Border Security Bill
  • Researchers Link Latino Immigration and Black Urban Violence; Still Reject Limits on Immigration

Arizona Bill Cracks Down on Illegal Immigration

Frustrated with the federal government’s failure to secure the border and combat illegal immigration, Arizona lawmakers passed one of the toughest immigration enforcement laws in the nation last week.  Entitled the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” SB 1070 passed the Arizona House on a 35-21 party-line vote last Tuesday after clearing the Senate in February. (FOX News, April 14, 2010).   Governor Jan Brewer, who has argued for stringent immigration laws, is expected to sign the bill into law.  (The Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2010). 

SB 1070 gives Arizona law enforcement important tools to help fight illegal immigration. During lawful contact between an officer and an individual, the bill directs state and local officers to inquire into the immigration status of anyone who they reasonably suspect is in the country illegally.  Under current law, officers can only inquire about someone’s immigration status if the person is suspected of another crime.  (Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2010).  Additionally, foreign nationals who fail to comply with federal laws that require them to carry proof of legal residency will be guilty of a state misdemeanor.  (The Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2010).  Arizona is the first state to make it a crime not to carry such documents.  The bill also:

  • Allows law enforcement officers to arrest aliens unable to provide documents showing they’re legally in the U.S.
  • Prohibits local police agencies from adopting “sanctuary” policies that prevent law enforcement officers from checking the immigration status of people they stop or arrest. 
  • Makes it unlawful for a day laborer to solicit work in a public place.
  • Prohibits would-be employers from blocking traffic when hiring laborers.
  • Allows citizens to sue police agencies who do not comply with the law and government agencies that adopt policies that hinder the enforcement of immigration laws. 
  • Make it illegal for people to transport illegal aliens if the driver knows or recklessly disregards that the passengers are here illegally. 

Amnesty forces are enraged by the new law, which they claim is fueled by “anti-immigrant hysteria.”  (AZFamily News, April 13, 2010).  Some went even further in their criticism, relying on hollow cries of racism to attack the enforcement measure.  Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said, “Arizona has long been a laboratory for anti-immigrant experimentation, and its demagogue leaders have become folk heroes for white supremacists throughout the United States.”  (The Associated Press, April 14, 2010). 

However, Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), the bill’s sponsor, counters that law-abiding immigrants are not his target, “It’s the drug cartels, gang members.”  Id.  Arizona is directly in the crossfire of the violent drug wars waging in Mexico and the state is the most popular point of entry for illegal aliens who come into the United States.  (Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2010).  Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), a co-sponsor of the bill, stated, “Illegal immigration brings crime, kidnapping, drugs – drains our government services.  Nobody can stand on the sidelines and not take part in this battle.”  Id.  Kavanagh said the legislation “gives our local police officers the tools they need to combat illegal immigration, while protecting the civil rights of citizens and legal residents.”  (The Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2010).  The legislation is especially timely in light of the escalating violence along Arizona’s border with Mexico and the recent gunning down of a rancher and his dog by a suspected illegal alien.  (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, April 12, 2010; Legislative Update, April 5, 2010).  

Perhaps the most outrageous claim amnesty advocates have made about SB 1070 is that it “mandates racial profiling of Latinos.”  (Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2010).  Pearce, a former cop known as a true immigration reformer, has heard this accusation before, and explains that the bill explicitly states officers “may not solely consider race, color or national origin” in forming a reasonable suspicion.  (Arizona SB 1070).  “You have to have lawful contact, reason to believe, and then can only arrest based on probable cause,” says Pearce.  (AZFamily News, April 13, 2010).  The bill simply “takes the handcuffs off of law enforcement and lets them do their job.”  (Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2010).  Police agencies are split over the bill; the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police – made up of police chiefs who are politically appointed – is against it, while police unions support it.  (KPHO Phoenix, April 15, 2010).  Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for his aggressive enforcement of immigration laws, supports it, “Anybody we come across that is here illegally, pursuant to this new law especially, they’re going to jail.”  Id. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups have already pledged to sue to block the bill from taking effect if Governor Brewer signs it into law.  (Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2010).  According to these special interest groups, only the federal government has the authority to enforce immigration laws.  Id.  But these arguments ignore the fact that other state laws (with which FAIR and its legal affiliate IRLI have assisted), including Arizona’s 2008 law mandating the use of E-Verify, have withstood legal scrutiny.  Through the enactment of this legislation, Arizona lawmakers are sending a clear message that they will not wait any longer for the federal government to take action.  Speaker of the Arizona House Kirk Adams observed, “This is not a comprehensive solution.  That’s not going to occur until the federal government takes up its responsibility to protect Arizona.  But that doesn’t mean we should wait until then.”  (The New York Times, April 14, 2010).

Reid Flip-Flop Draws Fire; Amnesty Lobby Threatens Action

Just two days after promising the Senate would immediately take up amnesty legislation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) backed away from those words, leaving his constituents and Senate colleagues guessing if and when the Senate will take up amnesty legislation. (Politico, April 13, 2010). The controversy began on April 10 when Senator Reid told thousands gathered at a pro-amnesty rally in Las Vegas that the Senate would take up amnesty legislation immediately following the Easter recess. But three days later, after the conclusion of a meeting with fellow Democrats, Senator Reid announced at a press conference “we won’t get to immigration reform during this work period,” which concludes Memorial Day weekend. (Roll Call, April 13, 2010.). 

Clearly nervous his comments would upset the amnesty lobby, hours later Senator Reid issued a press release to the Spanish-language media reiterating his promise to take up amnesty legislation. (Roll Call, April 15, 2010). Two days later, Reid once again signaled he intended to bring up amnesty legislation this year, but this time refused to say when he would bring it to the floor, telling reporters that “I don’t go for these arbitrary deadlines” and that he would bring a bill to the floor when the bill is ready. (Roll Call, April 15, 2010). “If we can’t get it done before the election, we’ll get it done” during the lame-duck session, Reid said.  (Id.). The lame-duck session is the session that takes places after the November elections and before the newly-elected Congress is seated in January.

Reid’s inconsistent and seemingly contradictory comments drew immediate push-back from Democrats and Republicans alike.  Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) rejected the idea of taking up amnesty legislation until border security issues are addressed. “I don’t think we should do anything on immigration until and unless we have the border security issue” resolved, Nelson said.  (Roll Call, April 15, 2010). Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who is facing a serious challenge in her re-election bid, rejected the idea of amnesty legislation when unemployment was at its highest level in decades.  “[W]ithout a doubt, in Arkansas jobs and the economy are the number one issue.”  (The Hill, April 14, 2010) 

Meanwhile some Senate Republicans claimed that Reid – a master vote-counter – is well aware of the political controversy surrounding immigration and charged that he is pandering to Latino voters as part of his re-election efforts. (Roll Call, Apr. 15, 2010).  “I think it’s posturing,” Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said.  (Id.). Apparently some Nevadans saw it the same way. The Las Vegas Journal-Review issued a blistering editorial of Senator Reid’s flip-flop, saying “if Sen. Reid’s most loyal supporters can’t take him at his word, why would anyone vote for him?” (Las Vegas Journal-Review, April 15, 2010).

How the Senate tackles immigration reform is particularly important to amnesty forces as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled she will protect her Democrats from more tough votes this session. (Newsmax, April 12, 2010).  In fact, an anonymous House Democratic leadership aide recently said of an amnesty bill, “If it’s not getting through the Senate, it’s not getting through the House.” (The Hill, April 11, 2010). Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have reportedly been working on an amnesty bill for months, but have not yet introduced legislation. (Politico, December 15, 2009). Graham has been pessimistic as of late with respect to the likelihood of Congress passing amnesty legislation this year: “Immigration is going nowhere this year. After health care, people are risk averse around here. If you’re a red state Democrat, you want to get into an immigration debate right now? I don’t think so.” (Politico, April 13, 2010).

All of this political posturing has clearly made amnesty forces impatient. Reform Immigration for America, one of the largest and best-funded amnesty umbrella organizations, told the Senate it had until May 1 to introduce an amnesty bill. (See DreamActivist, April 15, 2010, Congress Daily, April 16, 2010)  Rich Stoltz, Reform Immigration for America campaign manager, told supporters the May 1 deadline would enable them to gauge whether the President and Senator Schumer are serious about their pledges or are simply stringing along the amnesty organizations. (Id.). Stolz also said that the organization was prepared to escalate their activities after May 1 by “ramping up a number of more militant tactics” such as civil disobedience, resistance, etc. The groups also want the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to put a moratorium on the 287(g) program, which allows DHS to train state and local law enforcement officials in enforcing federal immigration laws. If no bill and moratorium are in place by May 1, millions of people will march in the streets and thousands will conduct civil disobedience, said Emma Lozano, executive director of Chicago’s Centro Sin Fronteras. (Congress Daily, April 16, 2010).

In Wake of Rancher’s Murder, House Republicans Introduce Border Security Bill

Following the murder of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, April 5, 2010), Republicans on the House Natural Resources, Homeland Security, and Judiciary Committees have introduced legislation that will prohibit the Departments of the Interior (DOI) and Agriculture from hindering the Border Patrol from securing the border on federal lands. (Press Release, April 14, 2010). The bill’s introduction comes as reports have revealed that the individual who allegedly murdered Krentz “both entered and exited the U.S. through federal land on the San Bernardino Wildlife Refuge.” (Press Release, April 14, 2010).

According to a 2009 letter from DOI’s Bureau of Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Border Patrol has only “emergency vehicle access” to the San Bernardino Wildlife Refuge, which shares three miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. (Letter, May 29, 2009). FWS defines emergency circumstances as “exist[ing] only when human life, health, and safety of persons within the area must be immediately addressed.” (Id.). In addition, Border Patrol access even for emergency purposes is “limited to the use of established administrative roads.” (Id.). At all other times, the Border Patrol may only patrol the area “on foot or on horseback.” (Id.).

Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee argue that this severely limited access to the Refuge has impeded the Border Patrol’s ability to secure the border. (Fact Sheet). Krentz’s murder – which law enforcement suspect was committed by an illegal alien – sparked an investigation by Natural Resources Committee staff, who now confirm that the suspect “both entered and exited the U.S.” through the Refuge. (Press Release, April 14, 2010).

Krentz’s murder has also highlighted the larger controversy surrounding DOI actions that have hindered the Border Patrol from effectively conducting border enforcement activities on federal lands. According to a fact sheet provided by Natural Resources Committee Republicans, there are “4.3 million acres” of land along the southern border which have been designated as “Wilderness areas” by DOI. (Fact Sheet). This designation generally prohibits the Border Patrol “from using motorized vehicles, constructing roads and installing security and communication structures.” (Id.). While there may be good intentions behind restricting motorized access to public lands, such restrictions have clearly come at a cost. A DOI “Public Lands Threat Assessment” has indicated that federal lands along the border pose a national security risk: “Terrorists wishing to smuggle nuclear – biological – or chemical (NBC) weapons into the United States from Mexico could use well-established smuggling routes over DOI managed lands.” (Threat Assessment, 2002-2003).

In order to address these violence and national-security related issues, Congressmen Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Doc Hastings (R-Was.), Pete King (R-N.Y.), and Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) have introduced H.R. 5016, which states simply: “On public lands of the United States, neither the Secretary of the Interior nor the Secretary of Agriculture may impede, prohibit, or restrict activities of the Secretary of Homeland Security to achieve operational control [of the border].” (H.R. 5016, April 14, 2010). The bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Bishop, commented on the legislation: “National Security and a healthy environment are not mutually exclusive, however with current DOI policies, neither is being accomplished.” (Press Release, April 14, 2010).

Researchers Link Latino Immigration and Black Urban Violence; Still Reject Limits on Immigration

A recently released study authored by Louisiana State University (LSU) Sociology Professor Edward Shihadeh and Ph.D. candidate Raymond Barranco “confirms that Latino immigration and dominance of low skill jobs have displaced blacks from low-skill labor markets, which in turn led to more violence in urban black communities.” (Press Release, April 12, 2010). Interestingly, while the researchers acknowledge that the problem “is traceable to U.S. immigration policies over the last several decades,” they do not advocate restricting the flow of immigration in either direction. (Id.). In fact, Shihadeh and Barranco argue just the opposite – they claim that increased border security efforts have prevented Latino immigrants from returning home for fear that they could not cross back into the United States.  (Id.). Accordingly, they argue, this has “increased the number of Latino workers in the United States competing for jobs….Blacks lost that competition in many cities, and where that occurred, murder rates went up.” (Id.).