What did Arizona's political leaders learn from the debacle over Arizona's ethnic-cleansing legislation, Senate Bill 1070?
They learned that hysteria, misinformation, and grandstanding work, as far as garnering attention, and that saying the dumbest thing you can is often surest route to getting your mug on Fox News.
But wait, what if you end up scapegoating children and their moms? What if the solutions you offer are at best deleterious and at worst impossible?
No biggie. There are enough haters from the redneck persuasion out there -- especially among Republican primary voters -- that any ludicrous suggestion tinged with fear-mongering will win you some votes.
So when it comes to the humanitarian crisis of refugees from Central America crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, is it any surprise that the lowest of the low, embattled Attorney General Tom Horne, would take a pause from breaking campaign finance laws and dodging the FBI to stick his sagging beak into the crisis?
As everyone knows, refugees from Central America recently have been overwhelming authorities in Texas, so the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its sub-agencies, Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, have been transporting the overflow to Arizona for processing.
For about 10 days, this meant hundreds of parents and children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador were getting bused to the Greyhound station in Phoenix, where they found help from local Samaritans, particularly an organization called the Phoenix Restoration Project.
PRP organizer Cyndi Whitmore tells me it wasn't the first time that this has happened. She and her fellow volunteers have helped individuals dropped off at the Greyhound station for the past two years, offering them food and water, clothing, and sometimes helping with bus tickets.
Whitmore says there were no unaccompanied minors at the bus station. All children dropped off in Phoenix were with a parent. And the adults had paperwork showing they'd been granted humanitarian parole and given a date to appear in immigration court.
Basically, ICE was adhering to standard procedure, processing people and letting them go if they're not criminals and haven't been removed before. These individuals will be in removal proceedings for the foreseeable future.
"That's what ICE does," Whitmore said. "They've been doing it a long time. A lot of people aren't aware of that. It was clear that our politicians weren't."
To be sure, Whitmore says the PRP had never seen numbers like this before -- sometimes as many as 300 refugees were present at one time. It was a challenge her organization handled with the help of the public.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, Tucson's Greyhound station still is seeing large numbers of immigrants, but humanitarian groups, the Catholic Church, and regular citizens are helping deal with the situation.
More than 1,000 unaccompanied minors, women with children, and teenagers reportedly are being kept in a warehouse in Nogales, Arizona.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and other federal authorities publicly have stated that minors are going to get released only to their parents or foster care, and that there's not a guarantee that immigrant kids, any more than their parents or other immigrants, will be allowed to remain in the U.S.
A tough situation, to be sure, one with roots in unstable Central American countries where gang violence and poverty are out of control.
So what does Horne, who is trailing in the polls to his GOP primary rival Mark Brnovich, want to do about it?
Sue the feds. Which he's proscribed from doing directly, but he would get some other department to sue, supposedly.
On June 12, Horne sent a letter to Johnson demanding that DHS "cease and desist from transporting adult aliens and alien families from other states to Arizona."
He suggested that what DHS was doing is illegal, citing a federal law about securing the border and another about transporting illegal aliens.
What Horne and other nudnik Republicans fail to grasp is that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision regarding SB 1070 in 2012 reaffirmed the federal government's "broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration," as stated by Justice Anthony Kennedy in the court's majority opinion.
"Removal is a civil, not criminal, matter," Kennedy writes. "A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials . . . Federal officials, as an initial matter, must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all. If removal proceedings commence, aliens may seek asylum and other discretionary relief allowing them to remain in the country or at least to leave without formal removal."
Kennedy's words make sense in the current humanitarian crisis. In fact, they make me grateful for the system of federalism we have, where federal law is "the supreme law of the land" and immigration policy is not subject to the whims of attorneys general.
Can you imagine the chaos that would reign, if there were 50 attorneys general as self-serving as Horne, who could impose their wills over the federal government?
What about Horne's idea that ICE agents could be prosecuted for transporting the very illegal aliens just processed by DHS?
Law professor and constitutional scholar Jack Chin of the University of California-Davis School of Law tells me Horne's notion is absurd.
"There's this principle in law that says when a law enforcement agency does something in reasonable and good faith execution of their duties, unless it's prohibited by a law that specifically applies to them, then it's not a crime," Chin explains.
"So when a Border Patrol agent arrests someone for being in the country unlawfully and then transports them, say, to a detention facility, they're not guilty of transporting an unlawful migrant. Even though they did transport an unlawful migrant."
Imagine, if Horne's legal theory were correct, then, a prosecutor or cop examining a kilo of confiscated cocaine as evidence could be charged with felony possession.
Bottom line: Even if Horne figures out some way to bring a bogus suit against the feds, he will be shot down.
But like I said, it doesn't matter. Already, Horne's lawsuit threat has scored him an appearance on Fox News, where he didn't have to answer any unsavory questions about hiring his mistress or directing his re-election campaign out of the AG's Office.
To be fair, Horne's not the only local imbecile joining this confederacy of dunces.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who opposes Horne, recently helped out his pal, state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Doug Ducey with a legal opinion in the form of a letter to ICE, claiming that ICE employees could be held liable criminally for dropping off unaccompanied minors at bus stations.
Never mind that, as you've seen above, this ain't happening.
State Senator Kelli Ward, a serious Teabagger, has suggested that Arizona "prevent busloads full of illegal aliens from entering Arizona" using the Arizona National Guard.
Except that the immigrants reportedly have been flown into the state, then bused elsewhere.
Maybe Ward would have the National Guard shoot 'em out of the sky.
The Arizona Capitol Times' Yellow Sheet recently reported that Republican state House candidate and former talk radio jock Jay Lawrence suggested that Al Qaeda might be sneaking in with some of the kiddies.
"Have you seen these children," the Yellow Sheet quoted him as saying in a debate. "They've got beards thicker than mine."
Though why Al Qaeda members would want to surrender themselves to the Border Patrol as these refugees have done defies logic. If you're a terrorist, why not cross a less-active border? Like, um, the one the U.S. has with Canada?
Thankfully, the refugee children cannot be harmed by these assorted right-wing fruitcakes. Those of us who are stuck here in Sand Land, well, that's a different matter.
E-mail: Stephen Lemons.
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