The local civil rights community should have filled the plaza between the state House and the state Senate Wednesday with protesters as Russell Pearce's latest legislative abomination was slithering through the House Military Affairs and Public Safety committee, on its way to the House Floor and from there, soon, to the Governor's desk.
But, alas, the plaza was quiet, save for touring schoolchildren, and some non-nativist motorcycle rally on the Senate lawn. (Those nativists give bikers a bad name.) Meanwhile, in House Hearing Room 3, state Senator Pearce was making his mumbled pitch to the MAPS members in favor of ethnic cleansing.
Specifically, Pearce was pimping HB 2632
, a mirror of his own Senate-passed SB 1070
, which would force all local agencies to racial profile upon fear of lawsuit. It's an unfunded mandate that would give cops the authority to arrest anyone they damn well please as long as they have "probable cause" to believe someone's done something
to make them removable from the country.
I doubt seriously the local gendarmes will be collaring folks who're chatting in French at the local Starbucks. But if you're brown and you utter a few lines of Espanol, look out!
Pearce stuck to his standard pack of baloney, repeating over and over such asinine phrases as "enough is enough," as well as how we needed to take the "handcuffs" off law enforcement. You know, so they can slap them on you that much quicker.
He dropped this one line about how "67 percent" of law enforcement officers killed in "the last few years" have been murdered by illegal aliens. After the committee voted his way, with two Dems voting, "no," and one cowardly Dem voting "present," I followed Pearce out and dogged him to the door of the Senate building.
I asked him where he got that stat. He could offer no source. I told him that without a source, readers would have to assume he made it up. He gave me an evil eye and said, "You're going to write your story without the truth."
Well, if I swallowed this 67 percent figure without questioning Pearce on it, I sure would be.
I also asked Pearce how his law would apply to a Caucasian. He just shook his head. He had no answer. He never does when anyone asks him a real question.
Rep. Daniel Patterson
, from Pima County, asked him some real questions, too, one of which was how much this unfunded mandate would cost the taxpayers. At first, Pearce blathered on, but Patterson interrupted him, seeking an answer. Finally, Pearce told Patterson that "There is no cost," even though that's obviously bogus.
By forcing cops to act as immigration agents to the fullest extent of federal law, upon threat of being sued, you're creating a situation where each local law enforcement agency will have to pursue undocumented dishwashers and landscapers, rather than run after the really bad guys. And this, in an economy where resources are constantly being cut.
As Jennifer Allen of Border Action Network
later noted, immigration law is a notoriously tangled knot. Cops would have to be trained in how to check if someone is present in the country illegally, and training costs money. Zero training costs money too. Minus it, you're begging for an expensive racial profiling or wrongful arrest lawsuit.
John Thomas of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police
addressed the possible cost of getting sued by any wingnut who thinks the local constabulary aren't running after Mexicans enough. Even if a police department is abiding by the new law, they would have to defend themselves against frivolous claims.
Other than Allen and Thomas, there was one member of LULAC
(the League of United Latin American Citizens) and a representative of the Catholic Church who each briefly spoke against the bill. (Other than Pearce, most speakers were limited to two minutes.) The Arizona AG's office sent someone to oppose the bill, but he didn't speak. Lydia Guzman of Somos America was also signed up, but didn't get a crack at bat.
Would it have mattered if a thousand demonstrators were outside, with some packed in to the hearing room? Probably not. But then, you could make the argument that there's no point in anyone speaking out against the bill, or for the Dems to bother to show up to vote and go on the record against it. The activists who knew about this bill and have done nothing to stop it have lost their right to whine about it after the fact.
Democrat Barbara McGuire voted "present," muttering something about having to do more research on the bill. A craven act if ever there was one. Dem Patricia Fleming at least voted no. But it was Daniel Patterson who shined in his explanation of his no vote. He represented his district in Pima County well that day, pointing out that the bill will make it very unlikely that witnesses to crime, who may be undocumented, will come forward to talk to the cops, knowing they'll be arrested if they do.
He's right, and if killers and rapists go free because of it, you can thank Russell Pearce.
"But this bill is not just about the police," Patterson said. "This bill is about requiring agencies like the Department of Economic Security and AHCCCS to go after peoples' records...The sponsor knows that and I think anybody who's truly read the language knows that. This is very broad. In my view, much too broad...This is going to be ruled as unconstitutional
"When we come in here to the legislature, we hold up our hand and say we will uphold the Constitution of the United States. This bill does not do that. The U.S. Constitution specifically gives the enforcement of our nation's borders and immigration to the federal government."
I was glad to see someone state this. The federal government has plenary power over immigration matters, and this bill attempts to usurp the feds by making it a crime of "trespassing" to be in Arizona without the proper paperwork. But Pearce and his allies clearly don't give a cold cactus about the U.S. Constitution, so blinded they are by their own obsession with ethnic cleansing.