With a three-ring circus of gun enthusiasts, pro-immigrant protesters, and lobbyists swirling outside the Arizona legislature, state Senator Russell Pearce's police state/anti-immigrant bill, SB 1070, passed its final read today on the Senate floor and was transmitted to the governor.
Governor Jan Brewer now has three options: veto it, sign it or allow it to become law without her signature. She has five days to make a decision.
The vote fell mostly along party lines, with 17 ayes, 11 nays, and 2 senators not voting. Those not voting were Democrats Amanda Aguirre of Yuma and Albert Hale of the Navajo Nation.
One Republican voted against the bill, Carolyn Allen of Scottsdale. I did not see her speak during this afternoon's proceedings, but she's got to be one gutsy lady.
Several senators rose to explain their votes for or against a bill that will force local police to check the immigration status of all stopped during lawful contacts. Even citizens would be presumed to be illegal aliens unless they're carrying an Arizona-issued driver's license or ID, a tribal card, or some form of federal ID.
Ken Cheuvront (D-Phoenix) pointed out that regulating immigration was "exclusively a federal power," so the bill was likely to be found unconstitutional. He called the legislation "extremely un-American" and bemoaned the fact that the bill will target ordinary people.
"We're going to make criminals of folks who just happen to be grocery shopping, picking up their kids from school, going to visit relatives," he said.
Leah Landrum Taylor (D-Phoenix) wondered about the negative impact the bill will have on the state's reputation.
"Is this really a state people are going to want to come to?" she asked, later adding, "I just don't see where this legislation will create a sense of peace. I see where chaos will come out of it."
Democrat Paula Aboud from Tucson compared the bill to "tactics that were used in Nazi Germany." She said her constituents were worried about the measure.
"These are the citizens of Arizona who are saying, 'I have to prove that I'm a citizen?'" she observed. "I thought this was a country of innocent until proven guilty."
Republican Al Melvin of Tucson shrugged off such concerns, recalling how he had to carry ID on him when he traveled abroad as a businessman in places like Pakistan and Japan. His fellow GOPer Jack Harper of Surprise insisted that the state was acting because the federal government refused to do so.
"Obviously, we're saying we're going to enforce federal law here," he said. "But it's because they're not. We're going to step up and do the job."
Republican John Huppenthal, who's running for state schools superintendent, tried to attribute a drop in murders in Phoenix "from 250 to 125" to the passage of Pearce's "law on restricting the employment of illegal immigrants."
A look at Phoenix PD's statistics belies such simple analysis. In 2003, murders in Phoenix peaked at 247, with 42.5 percent cleared. In 2008, there were 168 murders, with 51.8 percent cleared. How would you know who committed the remainder of those murders, which are unsolved, or whether or not the perps were illegal?
Huppenthal posited that the employer sanctions law was the factor that drove immigrants from the state and drove down Phoenix's murder rate, but he lacks any proof of this assertion. (He also neglects the effects of the recession.) Moreover, the employer sanctions law was signed by Governor Napolitano in July 2007. Its effect cannot go backward in time.
But I digress. The best comment of the day came from Democratic Minority Whip Linda Lopez of Tucson, who blasted the bill for legalizing racial profiling.
"Fifteen years ago today, April 19, was the Oklahoma City bombing," she noted. "Many people died. Many more were injured. Let me ask the question: Would Timothy McVeigh have been asked his immigration status?"
Earlier in the day, anti-SB1070 activists held a mock funeral for "courage," which had been killed, they said, by "the deadly SB1070 virus."
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Two young pro-immigrant activists, Isela Meraz, 27, and Dulce Juarez, 23, said they would be holding a fast in protest against the bill.
Asked what effect they thought they could have on the governor, Juarez said, "We believe she can have a change of heart. We're praying for her change of heart."
They'll be at the Capitol every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., starving themselves until Brewer makes a decision. They may not have to wait for long. The bill is already on the governor's desk.
I almost forgot the gun enthusiasts I mentioned above. They were on the state Senate lawn to celebrate the Second Amendment. Though heavily armed, only a few of them held anti-immigrant signs. Still, they added to the weirdness of the day's events, with their assault rifles and their pistols strapped to their hips.