EXCLUSIVE: Reflections: Before there was SB1070, how it came to be

President Bush tours the USA-Mexico border with Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, and Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar at San Luis, Ariz.

Ariz. immigration bill was in limbo 6 years ago, a first person account

By Phil Riske, Managing Editor Rose Law Group Reporter


That was Governor Napolitano’s message to the Legislature in 2006 after President Bush came forth with his plan to deal with illegal immigration, and Congress continued its debate on the hottest political issue in Arizona.

The governor had linked a Republican-sponsored immigration bill, HB2577  to a new state budget, and the bill was awaiting a vote in the House after passage in the Senate 18-7. Napolitano said she would not sign a budget bill without suitable immigration legislation, but told me the Legislature should wait and see what the federal government does on immigration.

“The Legislature needs to take a breath and see what happens in Washington,” she told me the day before she left for Yuma to meet with Bush, who visited the border city as a follow-up to his plan to use 6,000 National Guard troops at the U.S.-Mexico border.

If the Arizona immigration were to get out of the House, where it had only one or two votes to spare, its fate could have decided the $9.9B budget and when the legislative session could adjourn, and tired lawmakers could hit the campaign trail.

Certain Republicans in both chambers weren’t satisfied with the immigration bill, fearing it would be vetoed. They, nevertheless, voiced political support for it.

Rep. Marian McClure said the $10M appropriation for the National Guard in the state bill was not enough — it would cost $30,000 per day for 100 troops and cost citizens millions on their property taxes. (There already were 170 troops on the border.)

Napolitano, whom Republicans criticized for being tardy on illegal immigration and vetoing separate immigration bills, called for comprehensive legislation, which was contained in HB2577, sponsored by Rep. Russell Pearce. The $160M proposal included provision to permit local and state law enforcement officials to arrest illegal immigrants under state trespassing laws if they suspect the subject had committed another crime, $10M to send troops to the border — both previously vetoed—and funds for hiring 100 additional Department of Public Safety officers.

The bill also provided for sanctions against employers who knowingly hire workers here illegally, but Democrats said the bill does not enforce the sanctions.

Napolitano blasted legislative leadership for refusing to negotiate with her on the issue and not waiting for the Bush to illuminate the state as to what additional resources might be coming to Arizona’s border with Mexico.

“It seems to me they’re still playing politics with the immigration issue,” she told me.

The governor said the state bill needed to complement, not preempt, federal actions, adding if Arizona spent money to secure the border, it would never be reimbursed by the federal government.

The bill appropriated $50M to pay for radar along the border and $55M for local government grants for border-related expenses, such as jailing illegal immigrants and erecting physical barriers.

Senate rejects amendments

The state Senate beat down numerous Democrat 15 amendments to HB2577, even though they had support from Republicans on some of the proposed changes.

“If this bill does not become law, we will have the continuation of the wink and nod system,” said Sen. Dean Martin.

Sen. Bill Brotherton and Attorney General Terry Goddard explain legislation Wednesday that would require employers to check the legal status of job applicants or face $5,000 fines. / Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer

Sen. Bill Brotherton, who sponsored 11 amendments, said the employer sanctions were toothless. The bill called for a from $2,000 to $10,000 penalty for first offense, but no penalty if an employer fired an illegal immigrant under order from the state.

Brotherton said there was no hammer to hit employers who falsely swear they’ve complied with hiring law, while an illegal immigrant who signs something falsely would be guilty of a felony.

“That’s not fair, that’s not just,” Brotherton said.

Things get hot

Martin blasted Brotherton for wasting the Senate’s time with the amendments and calls for roll call votes and labeled the Democrat proposal for more employer sanctions “the new communism.”

Democrat leader Linda Aguiree said, “I think Representative Pearce would even accept some of these amendments.”

Newly appointed Democrat Sen. Edward Ableser said ignoring the plight of immigrants is “the new fascism.”

Republican Sen. Carolyn Allen called for restoration of civility on the floor.

“Is this a guy thing, or what?” she asked

On final votes, the House passed the amended bill 33-22, and the Senate passed it 16-11.

Governor Napolitano vetoed the bill on May 6, 2006.

Arizona Lawmakers Dream of 200-Mile Border Fence, Raise Just 0.05 Percent of the Money/New York Times Magazine

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August 2012