The harsh anti-illegal-immigrant law before Governor Jan Brewer is "tearing our community apart" and should be vetoed, Interim Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley said today.
Romley, in his first major news conference since replacing Andrew Thomas, said that besides the negative consequences in Valley neighborhoods, he also has "significant" legal and policy concerns about the bill, which would make being in the country illegally a state crime.
Romley referred to his office's aggressive prosecution of Frank Roque, who shot a Sikh Indian store owner in Mesa back in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. Community members' emotions ran high after the terror attacks, but putting Roque behind bars sent a strong statement that violence wasn't the way to respond. Similarly, the harsh proposal passed by the Arizona Legislature is the wrong way to address the problem of illegal immigration, he said.
If the bill becomes law, Romley acknowledged, he's "obligated" to enforce it. But he's worried it represents an unfunded mandate from the state and that it has the potential to generate abuses of civil rights.
For instance, he said, the bill requires someone who's arrested to be detained until their immigration status is determined.
"What if the computers break?" he wondered.
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Romley also said he's still deciding whether his office will prosecute anyone for smuggling themselves into the United States.
Thomas put more than 1,000 immigrants in jail for about three months each under his court-sanctioned interpretation of the state's human smuggling law.
Click here for more about Romley's announcements today.