Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Legislature approves border trespass bill

By Howard Fischer

Phoenix, AZ – The measure says that anyone who violates federal
immigration law by entering this country without
permission is guilty of the state crime of trespass.
First time offenders could be jailed for up to six
months. Those caught again could spend up to a year in
state prison. Rep. Chuck Gray said the law is needed
because it is local police and sheriffs deputies who
come across illegal immigrants but can't hold them --
or even transport them to federal immigration agencies
-- because they haven't broken any state laws.

(And this is a tool that law enforcement will use on a
case-by-case basis. I do not envision large roundups. I
do not see them devoting all of their resources. They
have other things to do besides that.)

But that is exactly the reason that police and
prosecutors from around the state wrote to Governor
Janet Napolitano urging her to veto the bill. Kingman
Police Chief Robert DeVries complained that having to
enforce this law now, before the federal government has
taken control of the border, would, in his words,
potentially overwhelm the resources of small, medium
and large police departments throughout the state. And
Chandler Police Chief Sherry Kiyler said illegal
immigrants -- and those who believe they will be
mistaken for illegal immigrants -- will stop calling or
cooperating with police. Napolitano refused to spell
out what she would do with the legislation now that is
is on her desk. But she gave a very broad hint by
releasing the more than a dozen letters she got in
opposition to the measure.

(On those issues, I listen very closely to where law
enforcement is.)

Rep. Russell Pearce said he wasn't impressed by the
letters in opposition.

(They know they have a problem. And they've always been
worried about enforcing the law because they tend to
live in this little politically correct world. But I
can tell you things are getting to the point, the
citizens is who I'm doing it for, the citizens, that
person out there we took an oath of office to protect.
They're demanding we do something. That's who I owe my
allegiance to.)

Sen. Bill Brotherton chided colleagues for going after
the people who come here looking for work but so far
failing to enact any legislation that would punish the
companies that essentially lure undocumented workers
here by offering them jobs.

(The populace is going to see it as hypocrical that we
are sanctioning the employees but doing nothing to the
employers. And without jobs to come to, these folks
aren't going to come up here.)

But Rep. John Allen rejected those arguments as
irrelevant to the issue of whether police should be
able to arrest illegal immigrants.

(That's like saying because I live in a nice
neighborhood and when I open my curtains at night you
can see in I have nice stuff, somehow I've invited
somebody to rob me. What's the enticement there?)

One question that remains is whether the state can use
this back-door maneuver to make a state crime out of a
violation of federal law. A New Hampshire court blocked
several communities in that state which had tried to do
the same thing. But Pearce said he believes any
challenge to this law will falter. In Phoenix, for
Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.