He expressed confidence that precedent showed the Supreme Court would uphold the law. “Last time I was in Washington, the Supreme Court upheld e-Verify despite unpatriotic challenges of the Chamber and the Obama administration,” he said, adding that the federal government tolerates “sanctuary” programs that are illegal and instead “chooses to sue Arizona for enforcing the law.”
“SB 1070 has clearly worked,” Pearce said.
Dennis W. DeConcini, a former Democratic U.S. senator from Arizona, called the law “mean-spirited” and “divisive,” charging it “targets those with brown skin.”
“We have unduly harmed our legal Latino residents in this process,” he told Schumer and Durbin. “Whenever you mix politics and law enforcement, you create a toxic environment and that’s what has happened in my home state.”
“I’m embarrassed for my state,” DeConcini added. “I apologize for our actions against our Latino community.”
“According to experts, this law encourages racial profiling,” Durbin said.
Pearce countered that “illegal is a crime, not a race,” and that the majority of illegal immigrants just happen to come across the southern border.
“It’s simply the rule of law,” he said. “Laws without consequences are not laws at all,” and SB 1070 forbids racial profiling, he added.
“I find it very demeaning to law enforcement that we would assume those kinds of things go on,” Pearce continued. “…You have to respond to reasonable suspicion to do your job.”
“Why didn’t you just say that everyone who was stopped by police had to be checked for immigration status?” Schumer asked. “Doesn’t the way you wrote the law [invite] racial profiling?”
“Just the opposite, Chairman,” Pearce responded, noting that the bill was written “to preempt silly questions.” This includes the acceptance of any driver’s license from a state that requires proof of citizenship to be accepted as legitimate ID with no further questions.
“No matter what we do, we’re attacked for trying to enforce the law,” Pearce lamented, adding that the law “was based on reasonableness.”
“I guess many would disagree with that,” Schumer quipped.
Gallardo called SB 1070 “the worst piece of legislation ever passed in the state of Arizona” and said there is no way to get around racial profiling in enforcement.
“It’s not by clothing, it’s by the color of their skin,” he said. “End of discussion.”
Schumer’s opening statement today also tried to pitt presidential candidate with the man he might pick to round out the Republican ticket.
“The wisdom of the Arizona law is also currently being debated around the country. For instance, SB 1070 has recently been endorsed as a model for the country by Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president,” he said. “Others such as Marco Rubio have said they do not believe the Arizona law should be expanded nationwide.”
Schumer said that if the Supreme Court upholds SB 1070 and he moves to the “contingency plan” legislation, “I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me in this effort in the event it becomes necessary.”
Pearce, meanwhile, was headed to the other side of the Capitol to back another piece of legislation.
The author of SB 1070 was to join Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), vice chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, at a press conference this afternoon to talk about the case. King, who will be at the Supreme Court tomorrow, has introduced the New IDEA Act, which would make wages and benefits paid to illegal immigrants nondeductible for federal tax purposes and make e-Verify permanent.
The Supreme Court’s ruling is expected this summer. Schumer’s legislative effort would likely die in the House, but would become a flammable issue on the campaign trail.