Hard Talk Forum

By Brewer, Janice K.; Richardson, Bill | Americas Quarterly, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

Hard Talk Forum


Brewer, Janice K., Richardson, Bill, Americas Quarterly


Should states and local governments have the right to

yes

With the federal government unwilling to secure our border, we are left with little choice.

On April 23, 2010, I signed Senate Bill 1070, the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, into law. In my 28 years of public service, I have made a lot of tough calls. But with a federal government unwilling to secure our border for years, Arizona was left with little choice. A nation without borders is like a house without walls.

It is critically important that the impetus for this new law is understood and that those outside Arizona have a clear understanding of the law itself Our neighbor to the south is in a massive battle with well-organized drug cartels. Because of Washington's failure to secure our southern border, Arizona has become the superhighway for illegal drug and human smuggling activity. In December 2008, the U.S. Justice Department said that Mexican gangs are the "biggest organized crime threat to the United States." In 2009, Phoenix had 316 kidnapping cases, turning the city into our nation's kidnapping capital. Almost all of the persons kidnapped were undocumented immigrants or linked to the drug trade.

The same week that I signed the new law, a major drug ring was broken up and Mexican cartel operatives suspected of running 40,000 pounds of marijuana through southern Arizona were indicted.

While drug smuggling is the principal cause of our massive border violence problem, many of the same criminal organizations also smuggle people. Busts of drop houses, where undocumented immigrants are often held for ransom or otherwise severely abused, are not an uncommon occurrence in Arizona neighborhoods.

Today, Arizona has approximately 6,000 prison inmates who are foreign nationals, representing a cost to our state of roughly $150 million per year. Arizona taxpayers are paying for a vast majority of these incarceration expenses because the federal government refuses to pay what it owes. My predecessor as Arizona governor, current Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, sent numerous requests to the federal government to pay for these prisoners-only to be given the same answer that she and President Barack Obama are now giving Arizona: they will not pay the bill.

When I signed the legislation, I stated clearly I will not tolerate racial discrimination or racial profiling in Arizona. My administration worked for weeks with legislators to clarify and strengthen SB 1070's civil rights protections. I issued an executive order to implement proper training and enforcement protocols for our police so that the intent of the bill's language could not be misconstrued. Although it is already against the law, the new law undeniably prohibits law enforcement officers from considering race, color or national origin in implementing the new statute.

As committed as I am to protecting our state from crime associated with illegal immigration, I am equally committed to holding law enforcement accountable should this statute ever be misused to violate an individual's rights.

There have been countless distortions, honest omissions, myths, and bad information about Arizona's new law-many, undoubtedly, spread to create fear or mistrust.

So, here are the facts: first, the new Arizona law creates a state penalty to mirror what already is a federal crime. Despite the vile and hate-filled portrayals of proponents of the law as "Nazis"-actions that have been condemned nationally by the Anti-Defamation League-it is already a federal requirement for legal aliens in the U.S. to carry their green card or other immigration document. As anyone who has traveled abroad knows, other nations have similar laws.

Second, contrary to the horror stories being spread around (President Barack Obama, for example, suggested families risk being pulled over while going out for ice cream), law enforcement cannot randomly ask anyone about their immigration status. …

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