Legislators like illegal migrants are ignoring laws they
Jun. 20, 2007
Laurie Roberts columnist
On Monday, the state Legislature approved a bill aimed at forcing judges to
follow the law and deny bail to undocumented immigrants accused of serious
"Why we have to pass laws to enforce laws is amazing to me," Rep. Russell Pearce
It's amazing to me, too. The law, after all, is the law. Which is why I was
astonished to read over the weekend that legislative leaders were cooking up a
scheme to go home for the summer without adjourning. This, so they won't have to
follow the law and give 135,000 Spanish-speaking children in this state a decent
Apparently, the laws you like must be followed, but the ones you don't like can
be ignored, giving legislators and undocumented immigrants a little something in
common, don't you think?
It's been seven years since a federal judge ruled that Arizona is violating
federal law by not doing enough to teach kids who are struggling to learn
English. The Equal Educational Opportunities Act requires states "to take
appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation
by its students in its instructional programs."
GOP leaders contend they've put enough money into English-learner programs and
that they're following the law. But a federal judge disagrees. U.S.
District Court Judge Raner Collins ordered the Legislature to comply with the
law in 2005. And in 2006. And yet again in 2007.
In March, he ordered the Legislature to boost funding by the end of the session
- or else.
Which is how we come to be hearing about the possibility of not ending this
year's legislative session, just suspending it indefinitely.
Of course, that'll never happen because it would mean the zillion or so new laws
that they've written this year wouldn't go into effect. But it does say
something about our leaders' enthusiasm for enforcing the law.
At least, this law.
"They talk about judicial activism," said House Minority Leader Phil Lopes,
D-Tucson. "What we are seeing now is legislative activism because in the case of
(Collins') order, they're not sympathetic to the order. They are not sympathetic
to the issue. So they're simply ignoring it."
Rightfully so, Pearce says. The Mesa Republican flat out calls Collins'
order unconstitutional, saying the feds have no right to dictate to states how
and what they will teach.
"This judge has no authority, no authority at all," he said. "You read to me
anywhere in the federal Constitution that even allows the federal government to
get involved in education. It's a state issue."
House Speaker Jim Weiers, meanwhile, acknowledges the federal law, just not
Collins' ruling that the state isn't following it.
"That's not a law," he said, "that's a judge's opinion."
In other words, they're upholding the law. They just disagree with Collins'
interpretation of what the law requires. Funny, that's exactly what Superior
Court judges say about Proposition 100.
Legislative leaders have appealed Collins' order to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals, which last year erased the judge's previous ruling and wiped out $21
million in fines.
But the appeal hasn't been heard. As of Tuesday, Collins' ruling - the one that
says the state continues to deny 135,000 children a decent education and orders
the Legislature to fix it before adjournment - stands.
And legislators, so indignant about county judges who ignore the no-bail law,
prepare to head home anyway, ignoring a federal judge's order. Which is, like it
or not, the law.
Or to put it another way: What part of illegal don't they understand?
Reach Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 444-8635. Read her
blog at robertsblog.azcentral.com.