S.A.N.E. Immigration Initiative Undercut by Bill Montgomery's Nativist Panderings

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery pivots on immigration. Now let’s see him walk the talk.
Stephen Lemons

Nativism, as a force in this state and beyond, must be crushed like a fat, hairy tarantula beneath a boot heel.

So while I admire the effort that the Real Arizona Coalition has put into its recently rolled-out S.A.N.E. immigration initiative, the participation of Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is troublesome.

S.A.N.E. is shorthand for a set of basic suggestions by the coalition, itself a passel of sober-minded businesspeople, politicians, and community leaders who seek an incremental push-back to the ethnic McCarthyism that still defines Arizona.

Secure our borders. Account for everyone here unlawfully. Necessary bureaucratic reform. Engage all areas of government. That's what S.A.N.E. stands for.

You can read the details at Essentially, it's a low-cal version of comprehensive immigration reform and includes a pathway to legal residency (though not necessarily citizenship) for the undocumented, as well as a loosening of restrictions on immigration.

The DREAM Act? Not exactly. Under the plan, kids brought into the country illegally by their parents may qualify for citizenship if they graduate from a university or college or serve in the military.

Significantly, S.A.N.E. does not require that the border be secured before addressing immigration reform.

That's always been a sticking point for many GOPers, though, in reality, the border already is heavily militarized. Essentially, this prerequisite has existed as an all-purpose excuse for Rs not to budge on the issue.

Overall, the proposal is conservative, and given that we live in the "meth lab of democracy," as Jon Stewart famously called our state, I guess you could call it a baby step forward.

A lot of people I respect have worked hard on S.A.N.E., including the Arizona Anti-Defamation League's Bill Straus, Julie Erfle of Politics Uncuffed, Todd Landfried of the Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform, and Danny Ortega, ex-chair of the National Council of La Raza.

And, so far, S.A.N.E. has snagged some notable supporters, some not terribly surprising: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, and Dulce Matuz, co-founder of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition.

The big chambers of commerce, Arizona's and Phoenix's, are absent. But smaller business groups have signed on.

Local media have gushed over the initiative, prominently citing the endorsement of Montgomery, its most conservative advocate.

The coalition's press release quotes the right-winger as insisting that we "move from stalemate to solutions on the broader issue of immigration" toward a "sensible approach."

I'll give Montgomery two points — maybe three — for being smart enough to know that Republican politicians have to move to the center on immigration.

Nationally, it's a no-brainer. In the wake of Mitt Romney's disastrous loss, with more than 70 percent of Hispanics voting for President Barack Obama, you'd have to be as deranged as Governor Jan Brewer's criminally insane son not to grok that neon-lit message.

And yet too many Arizona Republicans all but have "Senate Bill 1070" tattooed to their foreheads, Brewer chief among them.

The bottle-blond hag got elected on 1070 and became a heroine to the hard right by spending millions to defend it. Brewer owes everything she has politically to bashing Mexicans.

Her latest racist stunt: an illegal, discriminatory executive order denying driver's licenses to DREAM Act-eligible men and women granted a reprieve under Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The ACLU is suing Arizona in federal court, seeking to enjoin Brewer's repulsive move on the grounds that it violates the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause and its 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

"We don't license DUI drivers," GED Jan sputtered while defending her sorry act on Fox News, where she compared DREAMers to criminals.

You know, like herself in 1988, when she rear-ended another car and failed field-sobriety tests administered by Arizona Department of Public Safety officers, all the time reeking of scotch.

But the law didn't apply to this desiccated harpy because she was in the state Senate at the time, and she pulled her amnesty, um, I mean, immunity card.

If cynical politicians like former state Senate President Russell Pearce, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Sheriff Paul Babeu, or Brewer fell to their knees, begged forgiveness for scapegoating Latinos, and signed onto S.A.N.E., should we forgive their past sins?

Hell, no. When this crew keels over, one by one, of natural causes, Latinos should stand in line for miles to dance on their graves.

Not that we can count on the aforementioned Tea Party pols ever having come-to-Jesus-moments. They have to be extricated from power, as already has happened to Pearce. Or, in the case of Arpaio, boxed in 'til he's irrelevant.

What, then, should we think of Bill Montgomery's inching toward moderation?

First, let's first review some fairly recent history.

During Montgomery's 2010 GOP primary bid against then-acting County Attorney Rick Romley, he excoriated Romley for what was a true profile in courage — Romley's public suggestion that Brewer veto 1070.

Indeed, Montgomery pimped himself as the ultra-conservative alternative to Romley, appealing to haters at nativist gatherings.

On June 5, 2010, Montgomery campaigned at the pro-SB 1070 Phoenix Rising Rally at Wesley Bolin Plaza, speaking to an audience that included white supremacists and nativist wackos.

The West Point graduate shared the mic that day with Pearce, vicious anti-Mexican activist Barbara Coe, extremist California gubernatorial candidate Chelene Nightingale, and Arizona's Archie Bunker of law enforcement, Arpaio, whom Montgomery introduced, crowing that he enjoyed the evil geezer's "endorsement and support."

See, Arpaio dropped more than $500,000 on attack ads against his longtime nemesis, Romley, sliming him as pro-illegal immigration and helping Monty triumph in the primary. Joe's boy went on to the general election where he had no Democratic opponent.

Romley had halted prosecution of illegal aliens for "self-smuggling" under Arizona's anti-coyote law, the twisted practice of his now-disbarred predecessor Andy Thomas.

But in his address to the trailer trash that day, Montgomery vowed to reinstate the controversial policy.

"When it comes to meth, we prosecute the meth manufacturer, the meth dealer, the meth user," Montgomery explained, slurring the undocumented in the process.

"When it comes to auto theft, we prosecute the auto thief and the chop shop. When it comes to prostitution, we prosecute the pimp, the prostitute, and the John. So when it comes to human smuggling, why shouldn't we prosecute the coyote, and his client who paid for those services?"

Monty went an extra step in mid-August of 2010, appearing with other pols at a Tea Party rally on the ranch of notorious anti-Semitic border vigilante Glenn Spencer.

A day before the rally, I noted in my Feathered Bastard blog that Spencer's ranch was also where minutewoman and convicted child-killer Shawna Forde once lived, with Spencer's permission.

In 2009, Spencer let Forde onto his property again to use her laptop while she was on the lam from the FBI. He claims he didn't know of Forde's involvement in a May 2009 home-invasion robbery in Arivaca that left 9 year-old Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul, dead.

I find it disturbing to watch the YouTube video of Monty at the rally, leading the crowd in chants of "U.S.A., U.S.A." after mentioning that his fellow border hawks were being observed by some unidentified group on the Mexican side of the fence.

After he was elected, Monty re-instituted the practice of prosecuting people for conspiracy to "self-smuggle" themselves into the United States.

According to a recent report by my colleague Ray Stern, such prosecutions are down from the dark days of Thomas. But they continue: 330 in 2011 and 155 this year, as of the last week in October.

Additionally, the county attorney continues to hold illegal immigrants erroneously charged with forgery as non-bondable under the dictates of Prop 100, passed by voters in 2006.

This may change, thanks to immigration attorney Delia Salvatierra and her law partners, who have filed briefs in Superior Court, arguing that, under the U.S. Supreme Court's 1070 ruling in June, Prop 100 is unconstitutional.

Salvatierra maintains that the state has failed to establish that her client is in the country illegally and, therefore, ineligible for bond. She also claims the state has no evidence that her client, who was caught up in one of Arpaio's raids, violated Arizona laws pertaining to fraud and ID theft.

"The Maricopa County Attorney has a pattern and practice of charging non-citizens with class 4 and higher felonies in order to ensure that they will be non-bondable," reads the brief.

The accused in this case has been in Arpaio's gulags for four months. She is the mother of two U.S. citizen children, one of whom has been diagnosed with leukemia.

And she went to jail for what? For working? For keeping her two kids fed?

Monty continues to support policies and laws that keep such women behind bars instead of with their children, where they belong.

Talk is nice. Monty wants to be governor someday. And his support of S.A.N.E. is his way of beginning to pivot, to seem reasonable on immigration.

But I want results. I want to see people who are essentially innocent treated as such.

And that Monty cannot or will not do as part of his political calculations.

So, like all supporters of nativism, he must be defeated. This time in court. Hopefully, by Salvatierra.

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