States Following Arizona's Lead—But Only With Baby Steps So Far

Even if the Republican leadership in the House were truly dedicated to enacting patriotic immigration reform, the Democrats still control the Senate and the White House. Enacting productive legislation on the federal level will be tough.

As I wrote in my previous column Fighting Birthright Citizenship: Will GOP Congressional Leadership Hide Behind The States (Again)?, the next frontier is barring "anchor babies" from state citizenship. But there are a number of avenues that states can take to tackle illegal immigration, and a variety of measures have already been passed.

States can bar illegal aliens from receiving in-state tuition (or better yet, attending any higher education—it's as easy to use E-Verify on universities as jobsites, and Plyler vs. Doe doesn't cover universities), receiving driver's licenses, and any non-federally-mandated services (i.e. other than emergency room care and primary education). They can make more stringent voter-ID laws to prevent illegal aliens from voting. They can mandate E-Verify for government contractors, or better yet every business. They can enter in 287(g) programs to empower local law enforcement.

And of course, there is Arizona's SB 1070; which, among many other things, empowers law enforcement officials to check the legal status of those they come across through lawful contact.

1070 restarted the debate on immigration, and the Obama administration's lawsuit against Arizona sent his approval ratings staggering downward.

Within weeks of its passage, legislators in dozens of other states introduced copy-cat legislation. The national immigration debate began to center around this one bill. A number of new Republican governors including Nathan Deal of Georgia, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Bill Haslam of Tennessee, and Rick Scott of Florida, all campaigned on enacting SB 1070.

But, thus far, not one of them has done a thing to push through such a bill.

This is not to say the new crop of governors have been completely useless on immigration.

Hispanic New Mexico governor Susanna Martinez—who said she does not support SB 1070—issued an executive order rescinding Bill Richardson's sanctuary policies and requiring police to look at the immigration status of criminal suspects (though forbidding them to do so with witnesses and victims to crimes.)

Rick Scott issued an executive order requiring all employers to use E-Verify. However he seemed to back off a campaign pledge to require it for all employers.

Scott spoke at the Hispanic Leadership Network pander-fest, and avoided the issue completely.

When pressed by reporters, he stated, albeit clumsily, that he still supported the basic premise of Arizona law "So, if you are in our country, and you're stopped – just like if I get stopped for speeding – you're stopped, uh, for violating the law, you should be asked whether you're legal or not." However, when pressed if he would actually help push the bill forward he was evasive. NBC Miami reported, "The Governor was asked when he intends to help legislators draft his immigration reform and whether he's sensed opposition from Latin or Hispanic leader…He wouldn't answer either question."

For a SB 1070 style bill to pass in Florida, forceful intervention by the governor may be essential. Sen. Mike Bennett who co-sponsored the bill now says, "I might not even vote for it myself," citing the baseless concerns over racial profiling. [Opposition Building to Gov. Scott's "Arizona-Style" Immigration Reform, Jeff Burnside, February 4, 2011]

Utah, where voters kicked out pro-amnesty Republicans like Chris Cannon and Bill Bennett for immigration patriots in 2008 and 2010 should be ripe for an Arizona bill. However, the day after Rep. Sandstrom introduced one, the Mormon Church issued a vaguely worded statement on immigration clearly aimed to divert it.

In Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal is also backing off of SB 1070 campaign promises. According to a Deal spokesman Brian Robinson,

"He would like to see us move to something that resembles a statewide 287(g) program, it is already federal law. Let's go with what we know works -- with what we have seen working in Gwinnett, Hall, Whitfield and Cobb counties -- and that we know will keep the state out of court."

[Court challenge predicted for Arizona-style bill aimed at illegal immigration, by Jeremy Redmon, Atlanta Journal Constitution, January 26, 2011]

There is a serious problem with this calculation: the 287(g) program requires the good faith of the Obama administration. But in 2009, the Administration revised ICE's 287(g) agreements to bar law enforcement from checking immigration status beyond anyone who also committed a serious crime.

Of course, the vast majority of illegal aliens are not rapists, drug dealers, or murderers. This does not change the fact that they impose huge fiscal, social and political costs upon American citizens. The 287(g) legislation is a valuable tool to help local law enforcement, but with Obama running ICE, it cannot have close to the same impact as SB 1070.

Nathan Deal's apparent turnaround on SB 1070 is the most disappointing. Deal had one of the strongest immigration records in Congress. More importantly, he won the nomination almost solely on his strong support of immigration control. As I wrote after his victory,

"Two weeks before the primary, Deal was in a distant Third Place. He focused his campaign on his tough record against immigration and received last minute endorsements from Tom Tancredo and Virgil Goode. After the runoff, Bay Buchanan, Team America PAC, and SB 1070 author Russell Pearce endorsed him."

[Immigration Patriot Nathan Deal on the Verge of Victory WINS in Georgia, August 11, 2010]

I am sure Deal will sign an Arizona style bill if it comes to his desk. But I expected him to push for it.

Still, this is not to say that we must have a governor pushing the legislation. Jan Brewer did nothing to promote SB 1070 prior to its passage and let it sit on her desk for a week before signing it.

With strong grassroots activist and leaders in the state legislature, bills can get through, and any Republican governor who does not want a primary opponent knows better than to veto it.

In Mississippi, Arizona-style legislation passed both the House and Senate, though the two versions need to be reconciled. Governor Haley Barbour is not running for reelection, but is considering running for president. According to Numbers USA, he has the worst immigration record in his public statements as any other Republican candidate. I have no doubt that he desperately wants to avoid having to come out for or against SB 1070, but my guess is that he will end up signing it. Which will be a huge victory.

Not all patriotic immigration reform advocates think it's important for another state to pass 1070 legislation.

Mark Krikorian told the Washington Post

"Obviously most places were not going to pass Arizona bills. There's always an initial flush of enthusiasm and then the reality of politics sets in. . . . These states are bankrupt - they need to decide what battles they want to fight."

The article continues, "But Krikorian also said that the Arizona bill has 'done what it was supposed to do' by creating a national discussion on immigration reform in the absence of federal legislation.

The post also quotes FAIR's Dan Stein:

"Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports tougher immigration restrictions, said states will probably bite off the small pieces of the Arizona bill that fit their constituencies. 'There is tremendous interest . . . in emulating portions of the Arizona model,' he said. 'But no one size fits all.' One area in which many states are finding consensus is with 'E-Verify' legislation, which requires businesses to use an Internet-based system to check the legal status of prospective employees. But when it comes to more restrictive laws, there is less agreement." [Arizona-inspired immigration bills lose momentum in other states, by Lois Romano, Washington Post, January 29, 2011]

But here, I must depart from my fellow Beltway patriotic immigration reformers. While we should encourage E-Verify, 287(g), and other positive steps, it is absolutely essential for more states to pass Arizona-style Legislation.

The people of Arizona are sick of carrying the weight for the entire country on immigration control. They are demonized as racists, extremists, and nut-jobs by the Main Stream Media and the Left. The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, though it had absolutely nothing to do with immigration, escalated these attacks.

Another state passing SB 1070 makes a statement that Arizona is not alone. It also makes boycotts much more difficult.

And focusing on other aspects of local immigration control do not make things any better.

Arizona raised millions of dollars for their legal defense fund, and if a few other states pass the law, and they are joint defendants, the costs will be marginal. If the courts are the sole issue, future states could add a rider to the bill saying that it will not go in effect until after the Supreme Court rules on SB 1070.

Moreover, using E-Verify and 287(g) are not immune from litigation. Arizona has the toughest E-Verify laws on the book with the Legal Arizona Workers Act, which they have had to litigate up to the Supreme Court. There is a good possibility that it will end up with a 4-4 decision (Kagan recused herself) meaning that other states that pass E-Verify laws will have to litigate it in lower courts.  The Justice Department is suing Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio for concocted civil right violations based in part on raids he made under 287(g.)

The Obama administration, and the dozens of business, ideological, and ethnic legal foundations with budgets in the tens of millions of dollars with whom the Justice Department colludes, will sue any minor attempt to restrict immigration on the local level. Both the Schumer-Menendez-Reid Senate plan and the Ortiz-Gutierrez Comprehensive Immigration Reform ASAP would nullify all state immigration laws in addition to respectively restricting and eliminating 287(g)

For other states to support Arizona would send an important message: that these states don't  care what the Obama administration, the ACLU, and La Raza think; and that they will stand with the American People—who tell poll after poll that they support SB 1070.

"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.