Phoenix Mayor: Anti-Immigrant Bill Racist and Unconstitutional

Categories: Politics
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Police Chief George Gascon earned his progressive street cred by standing up to infamously anti-immigrant Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio while he was the police chief in Mesa, Ariz., before heading to San Francisco. It was, and still is, Gascon's belief that when undocumented immigrants are too afraid to approach police to report crime or help with investigations, public safety suffers. 

Well, Gascon is probably even happier he's left Arizona now.

Yesterday, that state's House of Representatives passed what's being called the most anti-immigrant bill in the country making it illegal for undocumented immigrants to live or work in the state, or for employers to hire them. The bill, entitled the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act," states that during any "lawful contact" with law enforcement, an officer shall attempt to determine the immigration status of any person they reasonably suspect to be in the country illegally. The person may prove their citizenship by producing a driver's license, tribal license, or federal ID card.

A pro-immigrant march in San Francisco

The bill will now return to the state senate, which had already passed an earlier version of it, which means it's a shoo-in to be passed to Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, for signing.

Gascon hasn't yet returned our call about whether he's glad he got the hell out of Arizona just in time, but Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon told SF Weekly that he believes the bill is racist and will be struck down in the courts for being unconstitutional. Basically, he says, it's reversing the burden of proof to make a person have to prove he or she isn't an illegal immigrant.

It does a whole lot of other nasty things in the process, too -- like stunt the economy and undermine public safety, the mayor adds. 

"It will do exactly the opposite of what it intended to do -- provide a secure Arizona," Gordon told SF Weekly over the phone Wednesday. "It drives companies away, it drives employees that are needed away, and it drives people who spend money away."

"The people that are going to suffer are the citizens and the public," he continued, adding that backers including Arizona senator and bill sponsor Russell Pearce and Arpaio "are sitting they're laughing and smiling while hardworking people and companies are having trouble making a living here." 

The bill also puts the kibosh on any sanctuary city policies, stating any "legal resident" of Arizona can sue any entity in the state with a policy that impedes the enforcement of federal immigration laws. That entity would have to pony up $1,000 to $5,000 in damages for every day the policy stood after the resident filed the action.

Yes, what happens out in the Arizona desert may seem a world away from San Francisco. Here, a San Francisco Superior Court judge recently threw out a lawsuit against the city that argued the sanctuary city policy shielded undocumented immigrant Edwin Ramos from federal authorities. The suit was brought by the family of Anthony Bologna who was allegedly murdered by Ramos alongside his two sons in an Excelsior district shooting in 2008.

Yet if the whole publicity disaster that led up to the about-face on San Francisco reporting undocumented juveniles to immigration proves anything, it's that our sanctuary city status is indeed vulnerable to political sentiment that grows in places in Arizona. Take heed.

Photo via Flikr by adactio and Matt Cohen

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