On October 26, 1881, a gunfight erupted in a vacant lot on Fremont Street in Tombstone, Arizona, that would go down in history as the Shootout at the OK Corral. Virgil, Wyatt, and Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday stood on one side, and Tom and Frank McLaury and Ike and Billy Clanton on the other. Guns blazed. Men fell, dead or wounded. There is controversy aplenty surrounding the deadly affray, but one thing is clear: Those standing their ground and firing their guns had sand. Most men in the Old West—and women, too—had sand. If they did not, they would have stayed in the East. The territory of Arizona was inhabited by those with pluck and grit.
It seems that the state of Arizona is still inhabited by the same types.
One of those is Russell Pearce, an Arizona state senator from Mesa. Before entering the political arena, he served for 35 years as a sheriff’s deputy with Maricopa County. He rose through the ranks to deputy sheriff, was shot in the chest while on duty, and was awarded the Medal of Valor. I first wrote about Pearce in Immigration and the American Future (Chronicles Press, 2007). He was responsible for drafting Proposition 200, the ballot initiative known as Protect Arizona Now, a relatively mild reform that merely required people to produce proof of citizenship when registering to vote and when applying for public benefits. It also made it a misdemeanor for public officials to fail to report noncitizens who apply for welfare. Opposition to the proposition came from all the usual suspects, including not only several Hispanic groups but the Arizona Republican Party, the Arizona Democratic Party, Sen. John McCain, Gov. Janet Napolitano, several business organizations, and the AFL-CIO. Despite factional discord and personal conflicts among the supporters of the proposition, it passed with 56 percent of the vote in November 2004—and won 47 percent of the Latino vote.
In April 2006 Pearce was one of the driving forces in the state legislature behind a bill that criminalized the presence of illegal aliens in Arizona by expanding the state’s trespassing law to allow local authorities to arrest them anywhere in the state. Napolitano, who had won the governorship with 45 percent of the vote in 2002, vetoed the bill, saying that immigration arrests should remain a federal responsibility. Calling Napolitano the worst governor in the nation on immigration issues, Pearce continued to lead the fight against illegals, later saying,
I believe in the rule of law. . . . We’re a nation of laws. I will not back off until we solve the problem of this illegal invasion. Invaders, that’s what they are. Invaders on the American sovereignty and it can’t be tolerated.
With Napolitano as governor, though, a veto of all Pearce-sponsored legislation was a fait accompli. President Obama did Arizona a favor when he appointed her secretary of homeland security.
Back in Arizona this meant that Secretary of State Jan Brewer, a Republican with a very conservative record, first as a state senator from Glendale and later as the chairman of the Maricopa Board of Supervisors, became governor. Pearce went to work immediately, drafting and introducing Arizona Senate Bill 1070, the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act. Anticipating legal challenges from the ACLU and other left-wing and Hispanic organizations, Pearce enlisted the aid of Kris Kobach, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. A 44-year-old constitutional scholar, Kobach graduated summa cum laude from Harvard, then earned a Ph.D. from Oxford and a J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was editor of the Yale Law Journal. By the time he had finished his formal education he had written two books. In 2001, President Bush awarded him a White House Fellowship to work for Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft. When his fellowship ended, Kobach was retained as counsel to the attorney general. Following the attacks of September 11 Kobach led the team of attorneys and scholars who formulated and established the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System and also worked in reforming the Board of Immigration Appeals.
As an attorney Kobach has been involved in several lawsuits over issues concerning illegal aliens, including an Arizona case in which construction contractors and Hispanic organizations attempted to enjoin a state law that imposed penalties on employers who knowingly hired illegal aliens. He has been verbally attacked and called names by such groups as the Southern Poverty Law Center, a distinction that several of us at Chronicles share. I cannot imagine anyone more talented, qualified, or experienced in the legal issues surrounding illegal aliens than Kris Kobach.
In April SB1070 breezed through the legislature, although on a strict party-line vote: All Republicans in the Arizona House of Representatives voted for it, and all Democrats against it; in the state senate all Republicans save one were for it, and all Democrats save two (who did not vote) were against it. Governor Brewer, who could have wilted under pressure from Washington and from Mexico City and vetoed it, or cravenly allowed it to become law without her signature, showed sand, saying,
The bill I’m about to sign into law—Senate Bill 1070—represents another tool for our state to use as we work to solve a crisis we did not create and the federal government has refused to fix—the crisis caused by illegal immigration and Arizona’s porous border.
Senator Pearce called Brewer’s signing “a good day for America.”
The act does nothing more than support federal immigration law by requiring aliens to carry documents of their legal status or be charged with a misdemeanor. It also requires law-enforcement officers in Arizona to make an attempt, “when practicable,” to determine a person’s immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion that the person is an illegal alien. Citizens should have no fear of being harassed. A person is presumed to be lawfully present in the United States if he has any one of several types of identification, including a valid driver’s license, a valid nonoperating identification license, a valid tribal enrollment card, and any valid federal-, state-, or local-government-issued identification that provides proof of legal residence. Moreover, an amendment to the law, House Bill 2162, specifically states that police may only investigate immigration status when incident to a “lawful stop, detention, or arrest” and that the investigation cannot be based on “race, color, or national origin.”
Nonetheless, the left’s reaction has been typically hysterical. The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 to boycott Arizona businesses and prohibits most city business trips to the state unless SB1070 is repealed. Councilman Paul Koretz, who said he lost relatives in the holocaust, likened the actions of Arizona lawmakers to those of the Nazis on the eve of World War II, declaring, “We can’t let this advance any further. It is absolutely dangerous.” The city council’s action is mostly symbolic. Los Angeles has investments and contracts in Arizona worth some $58 million, but legally more than $50 million of that cannot be touched.
Gary Pierce responded to Los Angeles’s boycott with alacrity and sand. An elected commissioner on the Arizona Corporation Commission—Arizona’s version of a public-utilities commission—Pierce noted that Arizona supplies 25 percent of the electrical power consumed in Los Angeles. He made this abundantly clear to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and remarked,
If an economic boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives any power from Arizona-based generation. I am confident that Arizona’s utilities would be happy to take those electrons off your hands.
Villaraigosa and several councilmen huffed and puffed but clearly did not have the courage of their convictions and were unwilling to have brownouts in a brown city.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom suspended all “non-essential” travel for city employees to Arizona, which meant only that members of the city’s housing authority would not hold a conference in Scottsdale. That raises the question of why they were going to Arizona in the first place. Despite large budget deficits, junkets at taxpayers’ expense to out-of-state resorts evidently remain fashionable. Businessmen in San Francisco began warning Newsom about a possible backlash. “Would Arizona and other states that are more conservative than San Francisco retaliate and stop sending conventions to San Francisco?” wondered Kevin Westlye of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. “Certainly in a recession, we don’t want any retaliation.” Fearing such, Newsom formed an “Arizona Boycott Workgroup” to consider the ramifications of an Arizona boycott.
The city council of San Diego voted to “oppose” Arizona’s law, but what that means is unclear. When Arizonans began canceling trips to San Diego, officials in the seaside city began saying their opposition was merely symbolic. Joe Terzi, president of the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the city could ill afford the loss of any of the two million Arizonans who annually vacation there. “We’re in a very tough environment already because of everything else going on,” declared Terzi, “and we don’t need another negative impact to our industry.”
Several lawsuits have been filed against Arizona’s law, including one supported by the ACLU, NAACP, and MALDEF (the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund). “This is the most extreme and dangerous of all the state and local laws purporting to deal with immigration issues,” said Lucas Guttentag, an ACLU attorney. “This law is shameful, un-American. It will undermine public safety and it is unconstitutional.” The Obama administration is also contemplating a legal challenge, although at this writing—more than a month after SB1070 was enacted—U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder has not even read the law.
Standing their ground like gunfighters of old, Jan Brewer, Russell Pearce, and others in Arizona are unmoved by the opposition. Polls reveal that 60-70 percent of Americans support the Arizona law, and more than a dozen other states are now considering adopting similar laws. In an effort to slow the momentum, President Obama suddenly announced that he is sending 1,200 National Guardsmen to aid the Border Patrol. Let’s hope this cynical attempt at manipulating the American people into a somnifacient apathy is met with the ridicule it deserves and that other states show Arizona that they, too, have got sand.