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ID cards for infants? Author of Arizona immigration law defends S.B. 1070

Published time: April 25, 2012 20:56
Edited time: April 26, 2012 00:56
Russell Pearce, sponsor of the controversial immigration law Arizona SB 1070, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill April 24, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

Russell Pearce, sponsor of the controversial immigration law Arizona SB 1070, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill April 24, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

Arizona’s controversial immigration law is being discussed by the United States Supreme Court this week, but the top nine justices in America aren’t the only ones considering how to handle S.B. 1070.

Former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce (R), the author of the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, better known as S.B. 1070, offered answers to lawmakers in Washington, DC this week that would address the national criticism against the immigration ordinance.

“There’s nobody better to explain this law to the Senate than you,” opined Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration.

Sen. Schumer (D-NY) grilled Pearce this Tuesday on Capitol Hill over how the legislation can be applied to infants and the law’s requirement to have police officers check the immigration status of people during traffic stops who they suspect may be in the country illegally. Sen. Schumer voiced concerns over how S.B. 1070 suggests that a person’s choice of clothing could constitute “reasonable suspicion” of illegal residence and said that he believed that the law, in its current form, included “a really problematic definition of suspicion.” Pearce played off the charges by saying that the verbiage of his law was purposely constructed as a necessity to narrow any loop holes that the immigration law’s opponents may have.

“I knew those kinds of issues would be raised by those open-border folks that are against any enforcement. We’ve been sued on everything we’ve done from voting fraud — to stop voting fraud — to welfare fraud to going after illegal employers who compete illegally, immorally and have a competitive advantage over the honest employer. Doesn’t seem like no matter what we do, Mr. Chairman, we’re attacked for simply enforcing the law, trying to protect American citizens and jobs for Americans. … We simply wrote the bill to preempt those kinds of silly arguments and try to protect everybody’s rights,” explained the law’s creator.

“I don’t want a police state — I want a reason to do something,” said Pearce.

Addressing concerns for Congress over how the immigration law would be applied to youngsters in Arizona, Pearce explained that S.B. 1070 applies to everyone within the state — not just able-bodied adults — although officers will be expected to use their own discretion. Sen. Schumer, however, believed otherwise.

When posed with the matter of how small children should be able to prove their citizenship, Pearce scrambled to offer an explanation. Sen. Schumer informed him though that the state offers no exemptions when it comes to who can and cannot be questioned and detained for assumed illegal status. 

“All the children can be checked and should be checked under the law and its regulations,” Schumer informed the former senator. “What are the children supposed to show?”

“They are not required” to carry identification, Pearce insisted, adding that, “If there is not a reason to ask [for identification], then officers aren’t required to ask.”

Schumer wasn’t sold by his response, however, and brought up a passage in the bill that suggests that all suspects — even infants — could be considered aliens and forced to prove their citizenship through S.B. 1070.

“Mr. Chairman, if they don’t have ID then they’re not supposed to show anything,” Pearce went on to say. “You’re not required to have ID unless you’re a driver or — In Arizona, we allow parents to go and get an Arizona ID at any age if a parent so choses.”

Sen. Schumer was quick to fire back: “So you think under this law, children, to prevent themselves from being sent to a detention center or whatever, would have to carry some kind of ID?”

Pearce attempted to dismiss those concerns by implying that the committee chairman was “taking the extreme.” Brushing off the questioning, Pearce said, “I understand trying to make a point, but, Mr. Chairman, it’s just not accurate. It’s just not so.”

“Does the law say anywhere that children don’t have to be checked when they are stopped in a car in a situation? I understand that the law says the opposite,” asked Schumer. 

“This makes exceptions to law enforcement; you know to make reasonable decisions based on the circumstances at the time. I think it’s demeaning to law enforcement to assume they don’t know how to do their job in a respectful proper manner,” added the law’s author.

 In response, Sen. Schumer called on text from Section 3-B of the law, which, he revealed, “doesn’t list any exceptions at all.”

“There is no age. All children could be checked and should be checked” according to the law, Schumer insisted.

In his defense, earlier in his testimony Pearce said that S.B. 1070 represented a “majority opinion of America from coast-to-coast” and that 34 states he has been in contact with “have indicated their desire to pass 1070-like bills.”

The US Supreme Court is currently combing apart the legislation to investigate its constitutionality.

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