Down at the state Capitol today, it was like a little bit of 2010, all over again.
Grizzled nativists toting "I love SB 1070 signs," with pistols on their hips. Pro-immigration activists in droves denouncing the two-year old breathing-while-brown statute. And Arizona Department of Public Safety officers standing between them, keeping the peace.
All this for an announcement of legislation to repeal Senate Bill 1070 that even its Democratic backers admit will likely go nowhere in an Arizona Legislature controlled by a Republican super-majority.
State Senator Steve Gallardo, along with religious and community leaders and fellow Democrats such as state Representative Daniel Patterson and state Representative Catherine Miranda, heralded the introduction of the repeal proposal, which would strike the 1070 statute from the books, if passed.
"It has polarized the state of Arizona," Gallardo said of 1070, and of the counter-demonstrators attempting to shout him down. "It has done nothing to solve any of our immigration issues."
He talked of the negative image 1070 has given the state, and of the negative economic impact it's had. He called on the Republican leadership of the Legislature to give the repeal a hearing, something he conceded was unlikely to occur.
"It took [ex-state Senate President] Russell Pearce three years to get Senate Bill 1070 passed," he stated at one point. "It may take us three years to get it repealed, but we need to start talking about the effect 1070 has had on the state of Arizona."
So far, he's scored 24 of his fellow Democratic legislators as co-sponsors for his repeal proposal Senate Bill 1218. He said he's approached some sympathetic Republicans, but none are willing to break ranks.
"Privately, they'll tell you, `Steve, we agree...it was a big mistake,'" he related. "Unfortunately, they don't have the political courage to put their names on the actual bill."
Newly-appointed state Senator David Lujan spoke of his missing the vote on 1070 when he was state House Minority Leader, once more referring to it as one of the "biggest regrets" of his political career. He then went on to discuss the fear the law has caused in the Latino community.
As Lujan talked, nativists nearby chanted "1070 works!" An ironic declaration, considering the fact that the law has been mostly enjoined by the federal courts, and is headed for review before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Other pro-1070 protesters shouted "communist" and "open-borders" toward those involved in the press conference.
As a prayer was said in both English and Spanish, a particularly nasty nativist kept yelling, "Speak English!"
Catcalls continued even as Pastor Warren Stewart of Phoenix's First Institutional Baptist Church led the group around the podium in the Pledge of Allegiance and in prayer.
Earlier, some of the nativists derisively referred to Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, also on hand to support the repeal, as "Mary Rose Buttocks."
Class acts, these guys are not.
Gallardo's press conference took place on the Senate lawn. Over on the House lawn, the nativists cheered on a pro-1070, counter-press conference put on by Republicans.
I asked Republican state Senator Sylvia Allen why she and fellow GOPers felt the need for the opposing presser, when Gallardo's bill has as much of a shot as President Obama has of scoring her vote in 2012.
"Because it was a great opportunity to bring to the people of Arizona the danger that's coming in that's being ignored," she said.
She claimed that the terrorist group terrorist group Hezbollah has a training camp in Mexico.
She also alleged that the "open-border crowd" wants Arizona to "merge" with Mexico.
When I expressed surprise about the Hezbollah claim, she told me to "Google it."
There's also this report from an ABC affiliate in San Diego, but it seems sketchy and hyperbolic, to say the least.
As for the second allegation, none of the anti-1070 activists and politicians that I know of want us to "merge" with Mexico.
Personally, I could never figure out why a terrorist would want to walk across the Sonoran Desert to get to America in order to blow something up. Seems like it'd be easier to come to the U.S. and overstay your visa. You know, like the 9/11 hijackers did.
And if you have to backpack it into the U.S., why not come over the Canadian border? Why choose instead to come across territory crawling with U.S. Border Patrol?
But, hey, maybe terrorists like doing things the hard way.
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In any case, kudos to Gallardo for introducing the bill. It may be symbolic, but symbols count. And I was encouraged to see that he convinced most of his fellow Dems in the Legislature to put their names to the bill.
Shame on the Dems who haven't yet. Being against 1070, for a Democrat at this point in history, should be like Mitt Romney finally releasing his tax returns.
In other words, there's no excuse.