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Mayors Gordon, DeStefano Discuss Impact of Arizona Law, Call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

By Laura DeKoven Waxman
May 24, 2010

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, Chair of the Conference of Mayors Task Force on Comprehensive Immigration Reform, told a packed session at the Center for American Progress in Washington (DC) May 14 that his goal is to get the Arizona immigration law revoked as soon as possible, and at the very least enjoined. He called on the President and the Justice Department to intercede, saying that the potential for violence is rising and people are suffering.

The Arizona law, which was signed by the Governor April 24 and is slated to take effect July 29, 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; 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.

Gordon discussed the factors that led up to passage of the law, including increased illegal crossings and smuggling into Arizona resulting from stronger border control in California and Texas, increased crime in urban areas stemming from illegal immigration, increasing frustration voiced on the airwaves, and illegal immigrants being driven further underground.

Gordon called for establishing a path to citizenship while securing the borders, key tenants in the Conference of Mayors policy on immigration. Gordon commented that he was proud of all of the mayors - Republican and Democratic - who supported the Conference of Mayors policy resolution.

Joining Gordon on the panel was New Haven (CT) Mayor John DeStefano, who discussed his city's Elm City Resident Card, a multipurpose identification card that can be used by any city resident, irrespec­tive of status. Anyone who can show who they are and that they live in New Haven is eligible for a card, De Stefano explained. Among other things, the card is intended to strengthen communication and relations between the police and immigrant community. DeStefano said that that two days after the card was approved the city experienced its first Immigration and Customs (ICE) raid, and that after that many legal residents signed up for the card to show solidarity with the illegal residents.

DeStefano commented that he is an optimist and that he thinks the Arizona law will eventually contribute to the solution. He said that the curve of citizenship is the U.S. is ever-broadening, and while there are painful steps in getting it right, this nation always eventually gets it right.