ARIZONA LAWMAKERS TRAMPLE CONSTITUTION!
SB 1070 has had its day in court—and for supporters of Arizona's controversial immigration law, it was a pretty bad day.
In a 5-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court tossed three of the four major provisions that the federal government had challenged. It turns out that it's not constitutional for the state of Arizona to arrest people for being in the country without proper documentation; to force legal immigrants to carry their papers at all times or face arrest; or to make it a state crime for undocumented immigrants to seek work.
On the fourth contested point—whether police can be required to check the immigration status of people they reasonably suspect might be in the country illegally—the court was more nuanced. The court said the provision was OK—for now. But the justices put strict guidelines on how it could be implemented and warned it could be the basis of a future challenge to the law.
In other words: Most of SB 1070 is unconstitutional—which should make those Tea Party types outraged that Arizona Republicans are trampling on the sacred founding document of the country.
Republican supporters of the law were quick to call the ruling a big win. Gov. Jan Brewer called the Supreme Court decision a "victory for the rule of law," and a bunch of Republican state lawmakers have said the ruling was a vindication of their fallen comrade, Russell Pearce, the former Arizona state senator and SB 1070 godfather who was tossed out of office by voters in a recall election last year (but is attempting a comeback this year).
Most of the legal experts who were writing about the bill had the opposite opinion, calling the ruling a big win for the federal government and the Obama administration.
At any rate, the legal fight over SB 1070 has just begun, with the case now going back down to the lower courts for more finessing before parts of the law can be implemented.
But this much is clear: The Supreme Court believes that the federal government has the responsibility to manage immigration policy.
The important question at this point: Will lawmakers start dealing with the status of all those people who have entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas, or will we just have more grandstanding on the border-security front?
CROSSING THE POLITICAL BORDER
Newly elected Congressman Ron Barber had a busy week: He went to Washington, D.C, got sworn in, landed a gig on the Armed Services Committee, and cast a vote that enraged lefty Democrats.
Then he came home and held his first Congress on Your Corner in a Safeway parking lot.
On the afternoon of Saturday, June 23, hundreds of constituents braved triple-degree temperatures to meet with Barber. (The event was originally planned for Saturday morning, but a travel delay from Washington forced Team Barber to reschedule.)
Seeing the long line told us that Tucsonans put great value on the ability to meet their elected officials, face to face, in a peaceful setting.
Also symbolic was Barber's vote for the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, which would allow the Department of Homeland Security to waive environmental laws within 100 miles of the border.
Congressman Raúl Grijalva is a fierce critic of the bill, calling it "theater of the absurd.
"It is cynical to use the tragedy of the border as a reason to undo decades of laws that have served the American people very, very well," Grijalva said last week. "This is not about immigration. This is not about border security. This is about getting at a set of laws and protections that extremist Republicans have wanted to rid themselves of for years."
Barber supported the bill, he said in a press release, because "border security is the No. 1 priority for the people who live and work along our nation's southern border. There is no doubt that this bill will make our borders more secure. But this legislation is far from perfect, and I will work to make changes as it moves through the process."
State Rep. Matt Heinz, who is challenging Barber in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary, found Barber's vote for the bill "troubling."
"On Barber's first day in Congress, he simultaneously invoked Mo Udall and voted to waive one of Udall's signature pieces of legislation, the Arizona Wilderness Act," Heinz told The Skinny via email. "He did so in the name of border security, yet 22 of 26 Border Patrol agents-in-charge testified that federal land-management laws had no impact on overall border security. The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act is a solution searching for a problem designed to score political points, not address real world challenges."
Organizers of an petition drive to ask voters to extend the state's one-cent sales tax turned in more than 290,000 signatures earlier this week—but whether voters will get a chance to approve the proposition on the November ballot remains to be seen.
There's a wrinkle with the Quality Education and Jobs campaign effort: Official paperwork filed with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office at the launch of the initiative's campaign left off seven lines of text from the 774-line document, or a total of 152 words out of the 8,967-word law.
"We have a paperwork snafu," says Ann-Eve Pedersen, the chair of Quality Education and Jobs.
That's led Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett to warn the campaign's backers that he might reject the petitions. Even if he doesn't, there's likely to be a court challenge filed by opponents of the proposed sales tax.
Pedersen says she anticipates that the Arizona Supreme Court will have the final say on whether voters get a chance to decide on the tax—and she'd like to get the question in front of the court as soon as possible.
The Quality Education and Jobs campaign has retained Stanley Feldman, a former chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, to defend the proposition if needed. Pederson says the group turned in the proper language on a disc and had the full proposition on the petitions that were passed, so she believes the effort has met the "substantial compliance" threshold required by law.
If voters pass the initiative, 80 percent of the fund would be dedicated to education (including K-12 and higher education), and the remainder would be dedicated to restoring funding for KidsCare, a health-insurance program for low-income and middle-class Arizonans; and transportation programs, including road repair and construction.
Pedersen says it's vital to fund schools, not only for the sake of the kids who are in them, but also to help seal the deal with businesses that want to relocate to Arizona.
"Right now, our schools are below bare bones in terms of what they have to operate," says Pedersen. "At the same time that we've been underfunding our schools, we've been adding additional reforms, so there are a slew of new reforms coming online in the next two years that are pretty dramatic. So we're raising the bar for educators and students, and we have to give them resources so they can get up and over that bar."