Dems will go to Ala. to fight SB 1070-style law
Grijalva says light must be shed on 'rising climate of fear'
WASHINGTON — Arizona leaders need to show “support and comfort” to people in Alabama who are dealing with the negative impacts of that state’s strict new immigration law, a House Democrat said Thursday.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D–Tucson, was one of 10 lawmakers who announced plans to head to Alabama on Monday to bring national attention to that state’s immigration law.
“It’s not just pure symbolism, it’s about bringing attention to a rising climate of fear,” Griljava said about the trip.
Grijalva said that when Arizona was in the throes “of its SB 1070, there was a lot of people from across the nation that came to lend support, so I think it’s only fitting we do the same.”
Alabama’s law, known as HB 56, is modeled after Arizona’s SB 1070. Both were written by Kris Kobach, who is now Kansas secretary of state, but some have said HB 56 is tougher than SB 1070.
Arizona’s immigration law would have let local police ask a suspect’s immigration status, among other provisions. But that provision and some others were struck down in federal court after the Department of Justice sued Arizona over the law.
Arizona has appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has not said if it will take up the case.
Alabama’s law, like Arizona’s, has been challenged by the Justice Department and has had some provisions struck down by federal courts. A provision that would have required that public schools report students’ immigration status has been put on hold, but courts have let stand the practice of local law enforcers questioning people’s immigration status.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who was on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, has said she supports Alabama’s immigration law and is confident the Supreme Court will rule in favor of Arizona and other states with similar laws.
“I feel very strongly that it will be a big win for Arizona, and for the other states,” Brewer said Wednesday at unrelated event. “And of course SB 1070 only mirrors federal law so it’s not anything different than what is already the law.”
Supporters of Alabama’s immigration said they welcomed next week’s visit by Democratic lawmakers as an opportunity for public discussion of the law and its impacts. But they said the true negative impact of illegal immigration is on those people who lose jobs to undocumented immigrants.
“The point of HB 56 was to impact the people who are contributing to illegal activity and contributing to the increase of illegal alien population in the state,” said Kristen Williamson, a spokeswoman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a conservative think tank in Washington.
Thursday’s announcement came as the Department of Homeland Security said it would start reviewing 300,000 immigration cases that are backlogged in courts. The goal of the review is to close deportation cases of immigrants who are considered a low priority.
“To address the challenge of an overcrowded immigration court system … there is an ongoing administrationwide effort to focus immigration enforcement resources on those convicted of crimes, recent border–crossers and egregious immigration law violators,” said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Gillian Christensen in an email.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research group that analyzes government data, reported in September that the nation’s immigration courts hit a record high of about 300,000 cases in fiscal 2011. The Phoenix court was one of the busiest in the nation, according to TRAC, going from 6,693 cases in fiscal 2010 to a record 8,953 as of July 2011.
“At least in my district, I know that for a lot of families this (DHS review) is their last chance … even though the benefit of it is not complete,” Grijalva said Thursday.
Grijalva, who once called for a boycott of Arizona before backing away from that, said Thursday that a boycott of Alabama would be counterproductive. He said political pressure is the way to stop SB 1070–style laws.
“We need national pressure on Alabama to begin to reverse the trend,” Grijalva said.