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Mayors, Administration Respond to Arizona Immigration Law

By Laura DeKoven Waxman
May 3, 2010

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup are among those leading efforts against the controversial Arizona immigration law signed into law by that states governor April 24. That law, which takes effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session, likely to be late July or early August:

  • makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally;

  • requires immigrants to have proof of their immigration status;

  • requires police officers to “make a reasonable attempt” to determine the immigration status of a person if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that he or she is an illegal immigrant, unless it would hinder or obstruct an investigation, and race, color and national origin are not to be only factors police officers consider;

  • allows lawsuits against local or state government agencies that have policies that hinder enforcement of immigration laws; and

  • targets hiring of illegal immigrants as day laborers by prohibiting people from stopping a vehicle on a road to offer employment and by prohibiting a person from getting into a stopped vehicle on a street to be hired for work if it impedes traffic.

Gordon, who Chairs the Conference of Mayors Comprehensive Immigration Reform Task Force, published an op ed in the April 25 edition of The Washington Post in which he calls the law an embarrassment to the state and says that, “Our best hope in my hometown is that the rest of America doesn’t do to Arizona what Senate Bill 1070 requires our police officers to do to people with brown skin: -profile- them based on stereotypes and insufficient information."

Gordon is working with faith, labor and business leaders to get the law overturned, either by the Legislature or through the courts. He has called on Governor Jan Brewer to call a special session of the legislature “to fix the act’s myriad flaws.”

As the bill was being signed, Walkup released a statement indicating that, “The Tucson Police Department’s approach to law enforcement and immigration matters will not immediately change in light of what occurred today.” He said that the city will use the time until the bill takes effect “to formulate an implementation plan” and that “in the meantime the mayor, city council, Tucson Police Chief Villasenor, and all police personnel will remain focused on maintaining safety and peace in Tucson protecting civil liberties and sustaining our successful model of community policing and community partnerships.” Walkup and the city council unanimously opposed the bill while it was under consideration in the legislature and currently are discussing legal options available to them to overturn it.

Washington Reaction

Criticism of the Arizona law and concern with its implications has sparked discussion in Washington and made it likely that the Senate will take up immigration legislation sooner than had been expected. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) has said he wants to bring an immigration bill directly to the Senate floor ahead of climate legislation, but Republican support for such a bill appears increasingly unlikely.

On the day it was signed, President Barack Obama has called the law “misguided” and directed the Justice Department to monitor its implementation, expressing concern that it could violate civil rights.

Attorney General Eric Holder on April 27 called the law “unfortunate” and said he is “concerned about the wedge that it could draw between communities that law enforcement is supposed to serve and those of us in law enforcement.” He said that Justice and Homeland Security Department officials are “looking at the law to decide exactly how we are going to react to it…We are considering all possibilities, including the possibility of a court challenge.” In a Senate hearing that same day, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano – Arizona’s former governor – told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the law “could pull away resources from federal immigration enforcement efforts.”