Friday, July 30, 2010
Arizona's controversial illegal immigration law was set to go into effect this week, but a federal judge has blocked some of the major elements of the bill. We discuss how the legal battle over Arizona Senate Bill 1070 could play out, and the long-term impact the law might have on our region.
GLORIA PENNER (Host): The immigration debate was inflamed this week after a federal judge blocked key parts of Arizona’s controversial new immigration law which went into effect yesterday. And then Arizona’s governor said the state will appeal the order. Well, response from all sides has been intense and the controversy rages. So, Alisa, I heard San Diego County Sheriff Gore speak at a Rotary meeting recently and his contention is that his deputies should not be checking immigration status and that it’s the job of county law enforcement’s federal partners to do that. Is that what the crux of the problem is now?
ALISA JOYCE BARBA (Western Bureau Chief, NPR News): Ooh, the crux of the problem. I think the issue about how far law enforcement, local law enforcement, sheriffs and police officers, will go in terms of checking immigration status in every given community is certainly what it’s come down to in the fight over immigration. I don’t know if you heard, there was a story this morning, Temecula, Murietta, Lake Elsinore, they all participate in this program called Secure Communities where local law enforcement works with federal immigration officials to check immigration status. That is Constitutionally okay. Nobody has challenged that program the way this – what Arizona wanted to do. What Arizona wanted to do was they wanted to mandate, require, that all local law enforcement check immigration when they pull somebody over and they have a reasonable suspicion of them being illegal. That puts a burden, the police say, that puts a burden on the police force that it’s impossible to fulfill that task. They don’t have the training is what they say. And it also sets them up, the concern in Arizona, it sets them up for lawsuits for racial profiling from the Justice Department, lawsuits from Arizona citizenry if they do not carry this out. So it puts the police in kind of an impossible situation.
PENNER: It does. But I noticed that at that meeting that I attended, several people near me were not happy with that approach of saying sheriff’s deputies cannot do this. They want to rely on local police and local sheriffs to arrest and detain illegal immigrants. Why has the illegal immigration issue become a state or even a local issue? JW.
JW AUGUST (Managing Editor, KGTV 10News): It’s – I think the economy’s got a lot to do with it. I mean, when you look at the facts, Arizona’s crime rate is down. Obama is – 400,000 people they’re deporting out of the country, the most they’ve ever done. It looks like it’s working. The real – I think it’s really impossible to totally secure the borders and nobody wants to talk immigration reform until they secure the borders. We cannot – we can’t secure the borders in the green zone in Baghdad. How the hell are we – oops. How the heck are we going to secure the entire border with Mexico? I mean, it’s not realistic and we’re not – but they have to get off the dime, be willing to look at immigration reform.
PENNER: But when the border warder – border wars – Let me start over again. When the border drug wars were at their fiercest just a few weeks ago, Scott, San Diegans not only avoided Mexico but they were worried about the violence spilling over the border. Will any immigration law prevent that from happening?
SCOTT LEWIS (CEO, voiceofsandiego.org): No. I mean, that’s a macro-global sociopolitical, you know, tragedy in the making. I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know what, you know, a Border Patrol agent’s going to do about that. The…
LEWIS: …issue here is the federal government wants to protect its sovereignty over being able to deal with aliens in this country. And the idea of, you know, if there’s a person who is here legally, the federal government wants to make sure that they’re taken care of diplomatically and that that’s why framers set it up so that they – so that the federal government was in charge of it because you don’t want some state to cause a diplomatic crisis by pulling over, you know, a head of state or somebody important from another country and making them, you know, show some kind of ID or detaining them or something like that. The point is, is that the federal government is the best place to deal with this. Whether they have or whether they’ve been adequate or not, I think is the question. But people who come into this country deserve to be treated with respect in order for us to protect our relationship to the world, and that’s why the federal government is in charge of this. And that’s what the judge decided.
BARBA: But the bottom line, and I think we often forget about this when we talk about this, is two-thirds of this country, two-thirds of the Arizona electorate, are voted in favor of this law, so that there’s a deep anger, there’s a deep concern about an uncontrolled immigration situation. That’s perhaps unfounded. I agree with JW that it has, I think, a 100% to do with an economy, with people being out of work, and people being fearful that there’s a whole other group of people coming in to take whatever jobs there are. And I really don’t think that the border violence – I think that that’s kind of a fear-mongering thing. The border violence, it hasn’t even rolled across into El Paso to any big degree. That’s – El Paso’s right across the border from Juarez, which is the most violent city in Mexico, and we’re not seeing those kind of violent rates in El Paso at all or in San Diego. I mean, San Ysidro, Chula Vista, all of our border cities, you know, we’re not seeing the same kind of Mexican violence, so that is fear mongering.
PENNER: Just one final comment on this and I’ll go back to you on this, Alisa. Are there signs that the fracas over the Arizona law will push the president and congress to develop comprehensive immigration laws?
BARBA: I’m afraid not. I’m afraid that there just isn’t the Republican support on any level for comprehensive immigration reform at this point.
PENNER: Okay, well, I thank you all very much. But, Scott, I’m going to go back to you because you talk about double-tasking, multi-tasking, here we are doing this show and you’re – you’ve been busy on your smart phone picking up the latest from the city council which will start meeting in just two minutes. What have you heard?
LEWIS: We just got news that the mayor has decided to embrace Councilwoman Donna Frye’s proposal which got the support of Todd Gloria the other day. This is unprecedented. And this is what I’ve been thinking would be an incredible moment for the city going forward for several years is to see two former rivals or different sides of the aisle get together and announce some kind of compromise. He says that unless it changes, he will support it today unless it, you know, the triggers are the most important part. Forcing the city council to make these reforms like outsourcing city services, making substantially equal payments to the pensions costs, if those things are done at a certain time, then the tax will be allowed to go forward. And he says he’s in support of that, that it represents the biggest opportunity he’s had to get something like that done in a long time.
PENNER: Thank you for your reporting. And I want to thank Scott Lewis of voiceofsandiego.org, Alisa Joyce Barba, NPR News, and from 10News, JW August. Terrific job everybody. This has been the Editors Roundtable. Thanks to our callers and our listeners. I’m Gloria Penner.