Immigration Prompts Legislative Action
Arizona Capitol Times
May 3, 2005
By Jim Small
Democrats Decry Bills Targeting IDs, English As Official Language
Three more bills working their way through the process are the latest in a
pattern of legislation that targets immigrants and will divide communities, say
Democrats and other opponents.
Proponents, mostly Republicans, say they want to improve the quality of life for
citizens and legal immigrants.
A leading opponent, Rep. Ben Miranda, D-16, said, “If we fail to embrace and
include everyone, we are destined for adverse consequences. We will be held
accountable by the next generation – our children will hold us accountable.”
One measure would give local police departments the authority to enforce federal
immigration laws; a second would essentially prohibit law enforcement from
considering the metricula consular identification card issued by the Mexican
Consulate as a valid form of ID; the third would codify English as the state’s
S1306, which passed the House April 18 by a 32-25 vote, would give local law
enforcement agencies the ability to enforce federal immigration laws. Rep.
Russell Pearce, R-18, the sponsor of the strike-everything amendment that
contains that provision, said police routinely ignore immigration issues to the
detriment of society.
“No longer are we going to let people hide behind policies that are failing our
neighborhoods,” he said.
Opponents said the bill was unconstitutional and an unfunded mandate on police
departments, though Mr. Pearce said law enforcement is not required to enforce
the federal laws. Rep. Tom Prezelski, D-29, said the bill would create an
environment of fear in communities.
“I fear the police getting calls because someone brown is in their
neighborhood,” he said. “I live in a neighborhood that’s filled with brown
people – I’m one of them.”
Victims’ rights were also jeopardized by the legislation, opponents said,
because those not in the country legally would be hesitant to call police after
being victimized for fear of being deported. Police departments, Rep. Steve
Gallardo, D-13, will be unable to solve crimes because witnesses and victims
won’t come forward.
S1511 prohibits law enforcement agencies from accepting non-verifiable forms of
identification. The only forms to be accepted, according to the bill, are those
issued by the state, a federally recognized Native American tribe or a federal
authority. The most prevalent form of identification it excludes is the
metricula consular, an identification card issued by the Mexican Consulate to
Mexican-born people in America.
Rep. Meg Burton Cahill, D-17, said the matter should be left up to individual
police departments to decide which forms of ID they would accept. Some areas of
the state, she said, have a higher concentration of residents that rely on the
metriculas for identification.
S1167 mirrors the provisions of HCR2030, which is awaiting floor action in the
Senate, and requires all official government business be conducted in English.
Mr. Pearce, the sponsor of the resolution and the strike-everything amendment to
S1167, said the bill is an attempt to place in statute the language of the
constitutional amendment in HCR2030.
HCR2030 requires approval by Arizona voters in 2006 to amend the Constitution.
“We’ve never been an English-only nation,” Mr. Pearce said, “but we ought not be
an English-optional nation, either.”
He says the measures are an attempt to protect and preserve American culture and
the English language. Opponents say the bill is an attempt to divide communities
and will disenfranchise non-English-speaking residents.
“English is not in danger,” Mr. Gallardo said, “and we cannot allow alarmists to
say that it is.”
He also said the bill was only crafted in order to send it to Governor
Napolitano to force her to make a decision and “embarrass” her.
Democrats decried the bills as the latest in a series of legislation that are a
result of frustrations about the country’s immigration enforcement policies.
They say the bills will not solve any problem and will only serve to make one
segment of the population feel good, while another segment suffers.
“Laws like this leave a bad taste in the mouths of new Americans,” Rep. Ted
Downing, D-28, said. —