The Senate’s third-ranking Democrat said he will push legislation to block Arizona’s illegal-immigration crackdown if the Supreme Court upholds the state law.
Proponents and opponents of the Arizona law, which is being challenged by the Obama administration, sparred over its legality at a Senate hearing Tuesday, one day before the court hears the case.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said his measure will make clear that Congress doesn’t intend for states to enact their own immigration enforcement strategies. He said it will allow states to apprehend suspected illegal immigrants only as part of an agreement overseen by the federal government.
“States like Arizona and Alabama will no longer be able to get away with saying they are simply helping the federal government to enforce the law,” he said during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on state and local enforcement of immigration laws.
Those states are “writing their own laws and knowingly deploying untrained officers with a mission of arresting anyone and everyone who might fit the preconceived profile of an illegal immigrant,” he said.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments today on whether Arizona’s law, known as Senate Bill 1070, goes too far by requiring police to check the status of people they suspect are in the U.S. illegally, and to arrest those they believe are eligible to be deported.
The Obama administration contends that Arizona has gone beyond cooperation with the federal immigration law and is trying to implement its own policy.
With Republicans in control of the House, Schumer’s proposal would have little chance of becoming law, though Democrats who control the Senate could hold a vote to get senators on record on the issue during this election year.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the former Arizona state senator who sponsored Senate Bill 1070 said states have the right to enforce such measures to control the costs and crime related to illegal immigration.
“The invasion of illegal aliens we face today — convicted felons, drug cartels, gang members, human traffickers and even terrorists — pose one of the greatest threats to our nation in terms of political, economic and national security,” said former Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, who was recalled from office in a November 2011 election, losing to a fellow Republican who opposed his immigration policy.
Pearce said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks might have been prevented if immigration laws had been adequately enforced.
Former Democratic Sen. Dennis DeConcini who represented Arizona from 1977 to 1995, said the state law has failed, resulting in the harassment of Hispanics. He also said the state has overstepped its constitutional boundaries.
“I believe it is ill-founded, mean-spirited and divisive,” DeConcini said. “In addition, it requires state and local law enforcement to carry out immigration responsibilities that lie with the federal government.”