Pearce, Brewer stand firm behind immigration law - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

SB 1070: A Year Later Pearce, Brewer stand firm behind immigration law

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Posted: Sunday, April 17, 2011 12:01 am | Updated: 10:45 am, Wed Jun 6, 2012.

It provoked demonstrations and boycotts. And some key provisions have been enjoined by federal courts.

But a year after Gov. Jan Brewer signed it into law, you'll never convince Senate President Russell Pearce that SB 1070 which he crafted is anything but an unqualified success.

"They're leaving in caravans,'' he said of illegal immigrants.

"I've talked to a U-Haul dealer,'' Pearce continued. "He said business has never been better.''

More to the point, he said, the rentals have been one-way.

Brewer, who gained national recognition with her signature, said she, too, believes that SB 1070 has been a success. But her perspective is a bit different.

Brewer continues to fight in court to set aside the injunction by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton against enforcement of some provisions. That effort suffered another setback just this past week when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Bolton's decision.

But the governor said just the act of passing the law made a difference.

"It has really brought more people aware of the issues we are facing in Arizona,'' the governor said in an interview with Capitol Media Services. "It's been amazing what this bill has generated.''

That awareness got action.

It was not until Brewer signed the bill that President Barack Obama found time in his schedule to meet with the governor in Washington, D.C. And it was not until that meeting that Obama made a firm commitment to put some additional National Guard troops along the southern border with Mexico, albeit only for a year.

Pearce told Capitol Media Services he sees the effect in more immediate terms.

It is true that Bolton said the state could not enforce a provision of the law that required police officers to make a reasonable attempt to check the immigration status of those they have stopped. Also enjoined were provisions forbidding police from releasing anyone they have arrested until that person's immigration status is determined, and creating a new state crime for trying to secure work while not in this country legally.

But Pearce pointed out that the Obama administration, which brought the lawsuit, did not challenge several other provisions. Key among them, he said, was a requirement for local officials to cooperate with the federal government on issues of illegal immigration.

"The purpose of 1070 was to eliminate sanctuary policies,'' he said, where officials in some communities made a conscious decision not to call immigration officials when they come across those not in the country legally. "That's done.''

More to the point, Pearce said that section of the law has teeth, with anyone who believes cities are not cooperating entitled to sue for damages of up to $5,000 a day.

"1070 puts citizens in charge,'' he said.

The Obama administration also did not seek to block enforcement of another provision of SB 1070 which makes it a crime to stop a vehicle in traffic to hire a day laborer, or for someone looking for work to get into a stopped vehicle.

And Bolton refused to block Arizona from enforcing some other provisions of SB 1070, including a separate state crime making it illegal to transport or harbor an illegal immigrant and changes in law dealing with impoundment of vehicles that are used to transport those not in the country legally.

All of that, Pearce said, has had an effect.

"Violent crime has dropped three times the national average in Arizona,'' he said.

"That's huge,'' Pearce continued. "How many lives does that mean? How many victims does that avoid?''

There's a financial component to that, too.

Pearce said prison population usually increases by between 70 and 140 a month.

"We're 500 inmates below where we were last year,'' he said. That, said Pearce, saves not only about $30,000 a year per inmates but also avoids prosecution costs.

And Pearce said the decline in illegal immigrant population also has reduced what the state needs to spend in aid to public schools, as families pack up for elsewhere.

That still leaves the question of whether there is a negative side to the whole issue.

Shortly after the bill was signed into law, tourism officials said they were hit with a wave of cancellations for future conferences and conventions.

Kristin Jarnigan, spokeswoman for the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association, said at the time the first round of cancellations were from groups taking a stand against SB 1070. "But what we're hearing now ... is a lot of the meetings are bypassing Arizona because they just don't want to be associated with the controversy,'' she said.

Brewer, who formed a task force to deal with the image problem, acknowledged that groups which were planning to come to Arizona in the future were having second thoughts.

"But on the other side, we had plenty of people calling us telling us they were coming to Arizona, and they were coming now,'' the governor said. "So maybe it all just sort of balanced itself out.''

SB 1070 did have one other almost immediate effect: It made both Brewer and Pearce national figures, with regular appearances on talk shows.

Brewer said she does now get recognized pretty much wherever she goes. But she said the real benefit of all that publicity is the ability to get out the word about the problems along the border.

 

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