Thursday, October 22, 2009

Local illegal immigration leaders pledge new bill, voter initiative

Some excerpts from the Republic article -

Accusing the federal government of hampering local attempts to combat illegal immigration, state Sen. Russell Pearce, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and some of Arizona's most hawkish public figures on border security pledged on Wednesday to redouble their efforts with new legislation and a citizens initiative.

At issue is Pearce's new "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act." It takes a three-pronged approach to the state's illegal-immigration problem. It targets the undocumented immigrants themselves, the cities where they live and the companies and businesses that employ them.

His legislation, for which language has yet to be introduced, would allow local officers to arrest undocumented immigrants under the state's trespassing statute, essentially criminalizing their presence in Arizona. Additionally, the proposal would bar cities from enacting policies that prevent them from enforcing federal immigration law. Under such so-called sanctuary policies, communities discourage local authorities from contacting federal agents during routine encounters with residents living in the country illegally.

Lastly, Pearce's measure would add teeth to an employer-sanctions law that was enacted two years ago but has not resulted in a successful prosecution. The new provision would grant civil-subpoena power to prosecutors, giving them more ability to question witnesses and review internal records at businesses suspected of employing undocumented workers.

"This is not a partisan issue," said Pearce, a Mesa Republican. "This is about the rule of law."

The proposal comes just weeks after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials revoked some of Arpaio's authority to enforce federal immigration laws under a program known as 287(g). The program allows local law authorities who undergo special training to act as immigration officers, but Arpaio's actions drew scrutiny as he used the authority to launch dozens of immigration sweeps in Valley communities.

On Wednesday, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas accused the feds of "undercutting our efforts here." He said the new legislation is needed to provide local law enforcement and prosecutors the power to continue combating illegal immigration. He stood alongside radio personality and former Congressman J.D. Hayworth, Pearce, Arpaio and others as dozens of supporters gathered on the state Capitol lawn.

Pearce is preparing an identical citizens initiative that he will unveil next month. It will stand at the ready for the 2010 ballot in case the legislation fails at the Capitol, in the same manner that an initiative was used in 2007 to help goad lawmakers into approving the state's initial employer-sanctions law. In that instance, some lawmakers who were lukewarm on the legislation ended up supporting it, finding it preferable to an initiative that was more stringent and would have been exceedingly difficult to amend once approved at the polls.

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