Some state legislators lash out at demonstrators
Capitol Media Services
Apr. 10, 2006
By Howard Fischer

Capitol Media Services

Tucson, Arizona | Published:


PHOENIX - Some state legislators lashed out Monday at demonstrators and their cause, with one even suggesting marchers were able to do what terrorists cannot: essentially shut down state government.

In a series of floor speeches, the legislators - all Republicans - said the parade in Phoenix, one of more than 100 nationwide seeking a path to citizenship for those not here legally, is an affront to the "rule of law.''
"You cannot come here illegally and expect amnesty,'' said Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert. He said allowing them to stay despite the fact they have broken the law in the first place to get here sends the wrong message. "What do we expect those people to care about the rest of our laws,'' he said. "Break the law and you'll be forgiven: that's the message we're sending if we don't enforce our laws.''
Sen. Robert Blendu, R-Litchfield Park, noted both the House and Senate worked only an abbreviated schedule Monday, voting on a few items before splitting hours before marchers arrived. "They have succeeded in doing something that the terrorists have not been able to do, and that is shut our government down effectively,'' he said. "If I was a terrorist, I'd be going, 'What do I want to bother with this violence for? All you have to do is move in,' '' Blendu continued. "We have got to stand and figure out, do our laws mean anything or do they not mean something.''
But other legislators, all Democrats, objected to the characterization that everyone in the parade crossed the border illegally. Rep. Pete Rios, D-Dudleyville, said one of those who came for the march was his 82-year-old father-in-law Raul Mendoza. And the issue for him, said Rios, is civil rights.
Rios related on how Mendoza, after returning from fighting in World War II, went back to the mining town of Hayden to find he was still a second class citizen. Rios said he experience that himself. "In the theater we had what was known in the South as 'Jim Crow' laws,'' he said. "Latinos knew where they were to sit.''
And Hispanic kids got to go swimming in the community pool only on Saturday nights. "But little did we know that we got to swim there on Saturday nights because on Sunday morning they drained the water,'' Rios said.
But Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, said this has nothing to do with race but with law. "These folks have jumped to the head of the line'' in attempting to become legal U.S. residents,'' he said.
The debate even took on biblical tones, with Rep. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, quoting from Leviticus. "When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat them.''
Gould responded that enforcing immigration laws hardly amounts to mistreatment. Anyway, he said the New Testament says Christians should obey the civil laws of the land they are in.
Several lawmakers also lashed out at workers who, when setting up a stage outside the Capitol, hung the U.S. flag upside down. One told a legislator it was a symbol of distress but subsequently opted to re-hang it correctly.
But Sen. Chuck Gray, R-Mesa, noted the worker let the flag touch the ground several times in the process. "To disrespect it in that way shows that at least some of those workers setting up for this demonstration have little or no respect for the freedoms that we enjoy,'' he said.
Sen. Linda Aguirre, D-Phoenix, said it's possible when the workers talked about "distress'' they meant they were stressed in setting up the stage and simply made a mistake, which was corrected.
One GOP lawmaker who did not flee the Capitol opted to engage in what he called his one-man counter-demonstration. Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, put together a home-made sign in his office. One side protested federal legislation which he said grants amnesty to illegal border crossers; the other said he would hold off marchers if Gov. Janet Napolitano would call the National Guard. "This is a march for illegals,'' he said. "We have a population of people whose interest is not so much the same as the rest of us and now they're demanding rights to which they're not entitled.''
And Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, said he was glad that U.S. senators have stalled legislation in Congress which would have provided a path to legalization. He dubbed it ''The Amnesty-ville Horror.''
He lashed out at congressional Democrats who did not want to allow Republican amendments to the measure, including one by Jon Kyl, Arizona's junior U.S. senator, to bar those with criminal records from becoming citizens. He said that amounted to a stance by Democrats to "let those murderers, child molesters and rapists be U.S. citizens.''