On Russell Pearce's Bigot Bill, Republicans Blink: SB 1070/HB 2632 Down But Not Out

What an embarrassing day for the Republican leadership in the state House. Though House GOPers were prepared this afternoon to ram through state Senator Russell Pearce's anti-Hispanic apartheid bill SB 1070/HB 2632, to the surprise of almost everyone in the chamber, its House sponsor Rep. David Gowan suddenly moved that the bill be "retained on the calendar," leaving it limbo for the time being.

Gowan was apparently stopped short by the reluctance of some of his fellow tuskers to sign off on Pearce's dream anti-immigrant legislation.

House GOP spokesman Paul Boyer was flabbergasted, and admitted he didn't know what had happened.

"It could be back tomorrow, or next week," he stated.

Currently, the bill is not on the agenda for March 18, so next week seems likely, for now.

Jennifer Allen of Tucson's Border Action Network, who was present for the non-event along with some 30 activists and advocates from Phoenix and elsewhere, took it as a sign that the pressure she and others were applying was having an effect.

"Some Republicans had peeled off from it," Allen commented afterward, "and they didn't have the votes today to do it."

Rep. Daniel Patterson, a Tucson Democrat who has been vocal in his opposition to the Pearce measure, agreed with Allen's analysis.

"I suspect the Republican leadership will try to torture their members into voting for this thing," he cracked. "They'll be waterboarding whoever isn't going to vote for it. But whoever's got issues with the bill, I hope they hold firm. It's a bad bill."

Indeed, you don't have to be out there hugging immigrant babies to be against Pearce's trainwreck legislation. The bill would make it a trespassing offense to be in Arizona illegally, though such a measure would be unconstitutional, as the U.S. Constitution and the courts have long held that the federal government has plenary power over immigration.

The legislation would also force all law enforcement agencies to pursue immigration violations, without providing any funding for training. Those agencies that do not enforce immigration law to the fullest extent would be subject to devastating lawsuits, brought by any nut with an axe to grind.

In addition, cops would have broad authority to arrest without warrant anyone they believe to be removable from the country. And they and any agent of the state, or a county, a city or any other political subdivision would have to make a "reasonable effort" to determine the immigration status of anyone they come in contact with.

"The Republicans have badly failed on a lot of this immigration stuff," complained Patterson. "They've been trying to do the same thing for years and years, and it doesn't work. We do need some tough immigration reform, but it's got to be a national standard. It's got to come out of Washington."

Pearce has tried to get provisions of this bill through the legislature before, only to be foiled by members of his own party, who melted away when the voting was to be done. 

Allen told me that she planned to be back at the Capitol tomorrow to drop off thousands more postcards to Governor Jan Brewer, demanding that Brewer veto Pearce's bill, if and when it makes it to her desk. BAN is also planning a rally on March 24 at the Capitol, like the very successful action they had last week.

The verdict? The bill lives, but so do hopes of defeating it.

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