By Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services | Posted: Friday, April 23, 2010 12:45 am |
David Wallace/Arizona Republic
Gov. Jan Brewer signs illegal immigration bill SB1070 into law during a news conference at the Arizona Department of Transportation in Phoenix on Friday. .
Related: Tucson police chief sets 4 p.m. news conference on immigration law
PHOENIX — Defending its legality, Gov. Jan Brewer signed what is the toughest state law in the country designed to combat illegal immigration.
The governor rejected claims that the legislation, which gives police more power to stop and detain those not in this country legally, amounts to legalized racial profiling. She said the measure, in the version that finally reached her Monday, contains sufficient protections to individual constitutional rights.
And if that isn't enough, Brewer signed an executive order requiring that all police officers get proper training about when they can — and cannot — stop and question people about their immigration status.
The governor pointed out, both in her statement and that executive order, that the new law prohibits police from using race or ethnicity as the sole factor in determining whether to pursue an inquiry.
But she conceded that it does permit either to be used as one factor for an officer's consideration. And she defended the language.
"We have to trust our law enforcement,'' Brewer said.
"Police officers are going to be respectful,'' the governor continued. "They know what their jobs are, they've taken an oath. And racial profiling is illegal.''
But Phoenix attorney David Selden, who was involved in challenging a 2006 law aimed at companies that knowingly hired illegal immigrants, said allowing race to be used as a factor at all is unconstitutional.
"That was a strategy used by white segregationists when they were trying to gut the (federal) civil rights bill,'' he said. Selden suggested the same logic may be at work here.
"If they're not going to allow racial profiling, let's get 'race' out of it entirely,'' he said, rather than continuing to let police consider it.
Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who crafted the legislation, defended allowing it to be used as a factor. He said it recognizes that 90 percent of those who come to this country illegally are from Mexico or points south.
"You can't just say it's not ever a factor,'' he said. "It may be.''
Anyway, Pearce argued, police need a reason to pull someone over in the first place.
And he blamed "the mainstream media'' for promoting "this misinformation.''
Several groups, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund already have vowed to ask a court to bar the measure from taking effect as scheduled in August.
Brewer said she expects it to survive "in most areas,'' but did not elaborate.
She also said those who believe that this law will lead to civil rights violations are "alarmists.''
The governor said there has been "a lot of misinformation'' about what's in the bill in the media.
"But there are people who are alarmists, who want to cause chaos, and they particularly don't want to always listen to the facts,'' the governor said.
Attorney General Terry Goddard said those who challenge the law may have a case.
Goddard said he won't be involved in any decisions of his office on how and whether to defend the statute, as he is running against Brewer for governor and publicly called on her to veto the measure. Those determinations, he said, will be made independently by his chief deputy.
But Goddard said that, as a lawyer, there are elements of the law that could be troubling — depending on how the statute is enforced.
One is that ability to use race or ethnicity as a factor in determining whether there is "reasonable suspicion'' to question someone stopped for some other legitimate reason about their immigration status.
And then, he said, is there's the whole question of what constitutes reasonable suspicion in the first place.
Goddard said seeing someone come over the border illegally certainly counts. So does being found with others who admit they're illegal immigrants.
"It's one of the troubling things about this statute: So many things are subjective,'' Goddard said.
At Friday's press conference, Brewer seemed flustered by a question of what an illegal immigrant looks like.
"I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like,'' the governor responded. She said that is one reason for her order for more training of police.
"The law will be enforce civilly, fairly and without discriminatory points to it,'' Brewer said.
Brewer also brushed aside concerns that illegal immigrants who are crime victims or witnesses won't come forward, as it would open them to be being questioned about their immigration status.
That is based on the most controversial part of the measure which says that when police officers make an official contact with anyone, a "reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person.''
Brewer, however, noted there is an exception to that requirement if making that inquiry "may hinder or obstruct an investigation.''
Goddard, however, noted that is based on each officer's individual determination.
On top of that, another section of the measure prohibits government from limiting the ability of their officers to enforce federal immigration law. And any citizen who believes a community is violating that can file suit.
There was a lot of political pressure on Brewer to sign the controversial measure which would give police new powers to stop and arrest illegal immigrants.
All three of her Republican foes in the gubernatorial primary are on record urging a signature. And every Republican legislator, except for Sen. Carolyn Allen of Scottsdale, voted for the legislation.
Brewer, however, sidestepped the question of how politics figured into her decision.
"I would like to believe that any politician, when they are elected, after they're elected, they do what's right for the people of Arizona. And then, speaking of herself in the third person, she said, "I think it's very, very important that the people out there understand that Gov. Jan Brewer of the great state of Arizona, would always do what's right for the people of Arizona.''
The governor scheduled her press conference at a state-owned auditorium about a mile from the Capitol. The location not only provide space for the local and national media interested in the issue but also provides some separation from the approximately 2,000 people who gathered in the mall between the House and Senate.
Most of them appeared to be high school or college students.
Posted in Border, Govt-and-politics on Friday, April 23, 2010 12:45 am Updated: 4:46 pm. | Tags: