Jan Brewer Signs SB 1070, Prays for Re-election

 

In truth, the calculus for Governor Jan Brewer was straightforward: she could have signed SB 1070 into law and appease the increasingly fundamentalist Right-wing Arizona lobby, improving her odds in this year’s hotly contested Republican primary for the Governorship. Or, she could have vetoed a bill she had to have known was morally wrong, and thereby commit political suicide.

Clearly, Jan Brewer prizes her own political ambitions over the civil rights of Arizona residents.

This afternoon, Brewer signed into law SB 1070, which grants Arizona local and state law enforcement officers the power to arrest and detain suspected illegal immigrants, charging them with a state misdemeanor crime of trespassing for either being an undocumented alien, or for being a legal immigrant who forgets their immigration paperwork at home. In fact, under SB 1070 law enforcement officers must only have a “reasonable suspicion” that a person may be an undocumented immigrant in order to initiate drastic, Orwellian measures to ascertain that person’s immigration status, including arresting those whom they feel are not able to satisfactorily demonstrate their legal status.

In her press conference, Governor Brewer addressed some of the nationwide criticism of SB 1070, but much of what she said was disingenuous and misleading.

First of all, Brewer argues that the bill, which makes it a state crime for legal aliens to not have their alien registration cards on their person is language directly copied from federal laws. This is an impractical requirement for legal residents and immigrants, who face even more severe penalties for losing their immigration documents by trying to carry it with them at all times. The current status quo expects immigrants to produce paperwork when their is a reasonable expectation that it will be checked (i.e. when we are travelling by air or across state lines) by trained U.S. Border Patrol officers, but allows us to run to the corner store for a Vitamin Water without fear of being harassed for our paperwork. But, now, we will be expected to have our immigration paperwork at all times, whether we are driving to work or walking the dog. And God forbid we witness any crimes, it would be better for us to run home and get our passport before we call 9-1-1.

Secondly, Brewer argues that state and local law enforcement officers will only be enforcing federal law. But that’s the crux of the issue, isn’t it? State and local police are not trained federal officers — they are trained to enforce state and local law. Do cops receive extensive training on all federal immigration laws, such that they are capable of distinguishing between those who are here on legal student or tourist visas compared to those who are here past their visa expiration? Do local cops know about the necessary paperwork I needed to be on a TN visa, or how long a grace period I have between when I entered the country as a Canadian and when I have over-stayed? Surely, the answer is no — which begs the question, will cops be arresting aliens whose legal status is in question until they have time to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as they are required to do by this new state law? How long will that take? Could we end up with a system where a drunk driver be in jail for less time than a legal resident alien?

Thirdly, Brewer cites the vast criminality associated with Mexican drug crimes south of the U.S.-Mexico border as justification for SB 1070. Yet, SB 1070 does nothing to address drug-related homicides and drug trafficking into the United States from Mexico. It does not change federal immigration law. It, in fact, reduces state safety and security by diverting local law enforcement’s attention away from enforcing state and local laws, and by deputizing them to enforce federal law. What happens if you’re the victim of a petty theft — will it take longer for cops to respond because they’re spending more time figuring out if some other person has his immigration paperwork in order?

Lastly, and perhaps most gallingly, Brewer argues that SB 1070 requires cops to have a “reasonable suspicion” that a person is an illegal immigrant before asking for paperwork. But what constitutes a “reasonable suscpicion”? If not racial information, what kind of physical appearance or behaviour could distinguish a legal immigrant from an illegal one?

Brewer argues that racial profiling is illegal, both federally and according to Arizona state law. So, she says,

“I will not tolerate racial discrimination or racial profiling in Arizona. Because I feel so strongly on this subject, I worked for weeks with legislators to amend SB 1070 and strengthen its civil rights protection. That effort led to new language in the bill, language prohibition law enforcement officers from, and I quote, “solely considering race, colour or national origins in implementing the requirements of this section”.  

Well, I looked for that quote in the amended text of SB 1070. And, in point of fact, Brewer is referring to a section that would prevent the attorney general from pursuing any complaints against an employer suspected of hiring illegal immigrants based solely on racial or ethnic origins information. It does not refer, in any way, to the sections defining what a “reasonable suspicion” of illegal immigration status would be for state cops.

In addition, Brewer signed an executive order today, requiring that law enforcement officers receive training as to what constitutes “reasonable suspicion” of illegal immigration status. Which begs the question again: what, exactly, distinguishes a legal immigrant from an illegal immigrant in terms of physical appearance and/or behaviour that isn’t racial?

Well, Brewer might have been thinking about her own political future when she signed SB 1070 into law today, but I think she’s just fired up her Democratic opposition. I received the following email from Luis Heredia, Executive Director of Arizona’s Democratic Party, mere moments after SB 1070 was signed by Brewer. In it, Heredia writes:

Brewer and her right-wing Legislature have done serious damage to our state. The far-reaching impact is not yet known, but it’s safe to say that it will be devastating for our economy and the citizens of our once-great state.

Act Now! Meanwhile, Brewer faces a hotly contested Republican primary battle this November, and current Arizona Attorney General, Democrat Terry Goddard, is the frontrunner to challenge the Republican gubernatorial candidate this year. I say we boot Brewer from the governorship, and funnel our support into Goddard’s gubernatorial campaign. Let’s show Arizona how many people Brewer pissed off in the state and around the country today.

Oh yeah, and you can always write a letter to Jan Brewer, telling her all the ways that she sucks.

Arizona is a Haven for Crazies

A clear example of a clever forgery. I mean, we all know Obama's middle name is "Awesome".

As if Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration bill wasn’t enough to cement Arizona’s reputation as the last refuge for tin-foil hat enthusiasts: yesterday, the Arizona State House passed a bill designed purely to add fodder to the fire burning within the chests of Obama-hating birther conspiracy theorists. The bill (H 2441) which passed narrowly on Monday by a margin of 31-29 would require that any presidential candidate hoping to put their name on the Arizona ballot would be required to submit a copy of their birth certificate to the Arizona Secretary of State; if the Secretary of State suspects that the documents are false, they will be legally obligated omit candidate’s name from the ballot.

The U.S. Constitution requires that any candidate for the presidency be at least 35 years of age and a natural-born citizen of the United States. So, there’s nothing wrong with this bill, right?

Wrong! The problem with Arizona’s so-called “Birther Bill” is that it asserts that the Arizona Secretary of State is better at certifying presidential candidates than the Federal Elections Commission, the current entity that is responsible for checking that each would-be candidate meets Constitutional requirements. Having interacted with Arizona’s Secretary of State office personally while helping to run a local race, I call bullshit on that notion.

In addition, the jury remains out as to whether H 2441 is even Constitutional — can a state apply additional candidacy requirements to someone seeking federal office? Could requiring presidents to individually present proof of citizenship itself constitute an added candiacy requirement?

Fundamentally, the impetus for this bill are the members of the “Birther” movement, who have been largely marginalized by both the Right and Left of the mainstream. Birthers contend that President Obama was born outside of the country, and faked his Hawaiian birth certificate, thus making Obama an illegitimate president. Of course, anyone who doesn’t have an IQ in the single digits dismisses such a ridiculous notion — that is, unless, you’re Judy Burges, the Arizona Republican who sponsored H 2441.

If Arizona is going for a reputation of being the only state in the Union where Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are taken seriously, and can even dictate state law, than our state’s legislators are well on their way towards that lofty goal with this frivilous waste of Arizona’s taxpayer money.

My Letter to Governor Brewer

Governor Jan Brewer needs to veto this bill

Here’s my letter to Governor Brewer, regarding SB1070:

Dear Governor Brewer,

I am shocked and infuriated that the House of Representatives voted to pass SB 1070 yesterday – a state law that would criminalize being an undocumented immigrant, allow state and local police officers to check immigration status, and for these officers to arrest and detain suspected illegal immigrants without a warrant.

I urge you to veto this legislation.

I am a legal resident alien, who is studying as a graduate student at the University of Arizona. I have spent much of my adult life navigating the federal immigration process. SB 1070 criminalizes, under state law, the act of not carrying immigration papers on one’s person at all times, and grants state and local police the power to arrest immigrants (legal or otherwise) whom they suspect  of committing a crime. However, the very act of being arrested, charged and convicted with the misdemeanor crime of not  having one’s immigration papers could put into question the immigration status of legal resident aliens – thus, a routine traffic stop wherein a police officer chooses to enforce this law could result in the deportation of a legal alien for the mere “crime” of forgetting their passport at home.

While this law is aimed at addressing the influx of undocumented immigration across Arizona’s southern border, the criteria whereby a law officer can choose to inspect a person’s immigration status is ill-defined in this law, and could allow use of racial or ethnic information in making that decision. In practice, SB1070 will only serve to sanction state-wide harassment of legal citizens and immigrants and institutionalize racial profiling of Arizona’s residents.

Again, I implore you to veto SB1070. Arizona doesn’t need the reputation of having the nation’s most Orwellian anti-immigrant laws.  

Sincerely,

Me

Sheriff Joe: 1, Sanity: 0

“What’s this? Your travel signatures are out-of-date?!?”

Get me the hell outta this state.

I just found out this morning that the Arizona House of Representatives has passed a bill, SB1070, that grants state law enforcement the right to perform spot checks to verify a person’s immigration status during routine encounters with cops, including traffic stops or reporting a crime. Here’s the relevant stuff from this piece of legislation:

1. Requires a reasonable attempt to be made to determine the immigration status of a person during any legitimate contact made by an official or agency of the state or a county, city, town or political subdivision (political subdivision) if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S.

2. Requires the person’s immigration status to be verified with the federal government pursuant to federal law.

3. Requires an alien unlawfully present in the U.S. who is convicted of a violation of state or local law to be transferred immediately to the custody of ICE or Customs and Border Protection, on discharge from imprisonment or assessment of any fine that is imposed.

4. Allows a law enforcement agency to securely transport an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S. and who is in the agency’s custody to:

a) a federal facility in this state or
b) any other point of transfer into federal custody that is outside the jurisdiction of the law enforcement agency.

5. Allows a law enforcement officer, without a warrant, to arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the U.S.

In other words, if I’m driving down the street, and I make a rolling stop at a stop sign, a cop can pull me over. Based on the Canadian flag on my car (and perhaps a residual Canadian accent in my speech), a cop could ask for my immigration papers. Hell, he could decide I might be an immigrant based primarily on the fact that I’m Asian — and would be within his rights under this legislation to racially profile me. If I’m not carrying my papers on me, because I forgot my wallet (or more realistically, because some people don’t like to carry their immigration papers on their person because it increases the chances of losing it), I could be arrested by the officer and charged with a misdemeanor crime for not having my papers on me. I could be carted off to jail, and potentially have my legal immigration status be put in jeopardy for being charged with a crime. All from a routine traffic stop.

As a legal resident, I am frequently reminded by people at immigration and border security: being in America is not a right, it’s a privilege. And, legal aliens try not to abuse that privilege; we understand that we must remain in compliance with the rules to stay in the country, and many of us do our best to follow the rules to the best of our ability.

But imagine what we’re really talking about here: resident aliens who are legally in the country are now required (by state law) to carry our immigration papers wherever we go — a passport and our I-20 (which is a set of 8.5×11 paper), and if we lose those documents or decide to leave them at home while we go to a movie with friends? We risk being carted off to jail if we’re stopped by a local law enforcement official, and not just by U.S. Border Patrol (who generally don’t set up stops within city limits, making it easier for us to step out to the corner store without bringing our passports).

In addition, this law makes being an undocumented immigrant a state crime — which the New Hampshire supreme court found unconstitutional when a similar law was passed in that state in 2005.

And perhaps even more importantly, local law enforcement are not trained in federal immigration law. In a routine spot check, will they know how to read an I-20 or how to tell that my papers say I’m legally in this country? Will they cart me off to jail while they verify their kneejerk decisions (about my immigration status) with the appropriate federal bureaus?

SB1070 renders Arizona a police state, empowering and elevating Arizona sheriffs to perform the same duties as federal border patrol officers. In essence, this law deputizes Arizona sheriffs as officers of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — albeit, completely untrained and unqualified officers of ICE. This is a law aimed purely at harassing the nation’s legal residents with state-sanctioned racial profiling.

But, at least Sheriff Joe Arpaio is one step closer in his plans for psychotic world domination.

Cute and cuddly would-be overlord.

Psychotic and Orwellian would-be overlord.

Act Now! There’s still (marginal) hope in this issue — let Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona know that she needs to veto this law now. Change.org gives us the ways (I added #2):

Tell Governor Jan Brewer to stand up to Senator Pearce and do what is right for Arizona.

1. Sign this online petition at Change.org

2. Email Governor Brewer with your own email — this link contains her contact information and a form for sending the governor an email.

3. Flood her office with calls: (602) 542-4331

4. Attend a rally on Wednesday, April 14th, 12 PM 1700 W. Washington St. Phoenix, AZ 85007 at the Rear entrance to Governor’s office (note: this post is publishing too late for you to attend this rally.)