Click to play video Terry Greene Sterling on the people in her book 'Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona's Immigration War Zone'


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Budget-strapped Arizona set to pass expensive law nailing immigrants for trespassing
Budget-strapped Arizona set to pass expensive law nailing immigrants for trespassing

IN THE MIDST OF CRIPPLING BUDGET PROBLEMS, ARIZONA LEGISLATORS WILL VOTE VERY SOON ON AN EXPENSIVE BILL THAT WILL JAIL HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF MEXICANS FOR TRESPASSING IN ARIZONA AND FORCE POLICE TO BE IMMIGRATION COPS.

Earlier this week, I received an e-mail “alert” from a man named Eric Johnson, writing, as he put it, “for that Great American, Senator Russell Pearce.” Johnson wanted me to know that an immigration bill was zipping through the Arizona House of Representatives. The bill was, word-for-word, the same bill Russell Pearce had authored and successfully moved through the Arizona Senate a few weeks earlier.

I first ran into

Senator Russell Pearce last year, when he vowed at a press conference that he’d get his immigrant-trespassing bill passed in 2010. He called it the “safe neighborhoods” bill. It penalizes undocumented immigrants for setting foot in Arizona and turns cops into immigration enforcers.

True to his word, Pearce got a Senate Bill passed this year, and a similar House bill today sailed through the Arizona Legislature committee of the whole, and is set to be voted on tomorrow or later this week. It is called HB 2632. I sat in the balcony of the Arizona house today, surrounded by lobbyists who talked so loud it was hard to hear what the legislators said on the floor below us. I did notice Mexicans sitting with inscrutable expressions on their faces and a gaggle of yellow-shirted, Pearce fans dressed in yellow tee shirts.

I’d seen those shirts, and those faces, before.

Look at the pictures below, which I took during Pearce’s 2009 press conference.
Note three things.

First, note that Russell Pearce wears a yellow tee shirt

Second, note that his ally Sheriff Joe Arpaio stands nearby, and then takes the podium.pearce rally IMG 0147 768x1024 Budget strapped Arizona set to pass expensive law nailing immigrants for trespassing

Photo by Terry Greene Sterling

pearce and joe Budget strapped Arizona set to pass expensive law nailing immigrants for trespassing

Third, note that the aging woman in yellow stands near a sign that says “illegal aliens” cost the state $400 million for uncompensated healthcare. I point out the sign because undocumented immigrants are banned from using state-funded healthcare.

The same lack of logic must have prompted Pearce to call his trespassing bill the “Safe Neighborhoods” bill — because critics say it would make neighborhoods less safe. It should, in fact, be called the Unsafe Neighborhoods bill.

Here’s why.

The proposed law, which should be voted on any day this week, will transform Arizona policemen into immigration enforcers, whether they like it or not, and these immigration cops will, like Sheriff Joe Arapio, neglect the solving of serious crimes, like rapes and murders, in order to arrest each and every undocumented immigrant in Arizona for “trespassing.”

Keep in mind that approximately 460,000 undocumented immigrants are thought to live in Arizona.

If the new immigration cops arrested even one-tenth of these men, women and children for trespassing on Arizona soil, the state would surely face expensive challenges in court because the immigration goons would almost certainly question, detain, and arrest people with brown skin who are American citizens. This of course, is already happening in Phoenix.
Beyond civil rights abuses, there’s the practical matter of, the expense of arresting 460,000 people in the face of severe budgetary problems.

Arizona faces the “second steepest budget decline” in the United States, according to The Arizona Republic.
Arizona’s leaders have already knocked more than 30,000 people (mostly little kids) off state-funded healthcare, sold state buildings and closed state parks and schools.

Yet those same budget slashers are set to vote this year on a largely unfunded law that would financially burden a state already crippled by the recession.

The promoters of the law say each immigrant will be forced to pay $500 and that will cover expenses.

But ask yourself whether the trespassers about to be deported are eagerly going to hand over $500.

Or if they even have such cash in the first place.

It’s not a practical solution.

Pearce is not a practical man, however, and he is not supported by practical men.

He is not supported by clear-headed conservatives or moderate Republicans. He is not supported by Democrats. He is not supported by the business community or the agricultural community or any other reasonable community.

He is supported instead, by national anti-migrant groups, a dwindling number of Arizonans who fear or hate Mexicans, the aging groupies dressed in yellow, and, finally, by Minutemen.

Or, at least a few Minutemen.

Pearce’s own son said at a hearing I attended last year that he is a Minuteman, and Pearce’s good friend and colleague in the senate, Al Melvin, judging from the last line on his resume, is also a Minuteman.

Minutemen aren’t just tea party gadflies on steroids. And they aren’t just retired military folks who’ve overstated illegal immigration threats so they can dress up in camouflage once again and drive around in quads and report to their command center about “illegals” invading America.

You may recall that a Minuteman splinter group was accused of slaughtering a nine-year-old child in Arivaca, Arizona. The trio says they are innocent, and await trial in Pima County Superior Court. According to police, they slaughtered he little girl and her dad in an effort to steal the dad’s marijuana stash so they could fund their operation to protect America from “illegals.”

Consider the logic of that plan.

Then consider the logic of Arizona legislators who just pleaded poverty and stripped tens of thousands of children off healthcare rolls and closed state parks and slashed school budgets and then turn around and vow to vote on a burdensome, expensive law that will mandate the arrest of 464,000 people for trespassing on Arizona soil.

What happened to all that concern about budget woes?

What happened to the logic?

I don’t have the answers to those questions.

You could get them from that Great American, Senator Russell Pearce, though, if you call him at the State Senate. Or, if you want, you could call Kirk Adams, who is the speaker of the Arizona House, the guy who just allowed the trespassing bill to pass through a committee so it could be voted on by the entire house, instead of keeping the bill in the committee and letting it die.

Or, maybe you could just call up a Minuteman.