Democratic Legislative Leaders

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A discussion with House Minority Leader David Lujan and Senate Minority Leader Jorge Luis Garcia.

Ted Simons: State legislators are working to wrap up what's turned out to be one tough session. Lawmakers wrestled over a huge state budget deaf and it passed laws that made Arizona a focal point of national attention. Earlier this week we heard from Republican leadership, tonight we hear from the democrats. Here now is house minority leader David Lujan, and senate minority leader Garcia. Good to have you both on "Horizon." Senator, let's get to 1070, start with that. Your thoughts on the bill?

Jorge Luis Garcia: 1070 is a progression of antiimmigrant bills. We've had these for the past six years, and this is just a progression of it. It is nothing but a hate mongering, fear mongering, piece of legislation, and even senator Pearce agrees that it is meant to instill fear among those who are here illegally.

Ted Simons: Your thoughts?

David Lujan: Well, it's not a solution. The people of Arizona are rightfully so frustrated about immigration, want something done. But they want something done about the fact that we're becoming the kidnapping capitol 6 the nation, they want something done about all the drop houses, and this bill is not the solution to that. Not to mention All of the legal problems which I think your next guest will talk about, that are associated with this bill. This bill doesn't go after the criminal syndicates that are bringing violence into our neighborhoods. There's a number of bills that could have been introduced this year that would have addressed those things, democrats introduced a bill that would have made it a class 3 felony to forge documents when you're renting a house to go -- to be used as a drop house. I introduced a bill that would make it a felony to purchase or transfer weapons under false pretenses to drug syndicates. Those bills never got a hearing, but yet those bills would go after the real problems that Arizonans have with the criminal syndicates.

Ted Simons: The governor, on this program and elsewhere, has said that Arizona had to take action. Some action, almost any action, because federal inaction. Obviously the frustration is there. We all hear it. Shouldn't something, something be done to address the problem?

David Lujan: Certainly. And -- but as I said, there's a number of things that we could have done. We could have -- there's a number of bills that were introduced that would go after the criminal syndicates. I think that's where we can focus our attention in Arizona, and that's what's really creating the large amount of crime in our state, are these criminal syndicates. But we also need the federal government. I know we hear it a lot, but we need the federal government to enact immigration reform. We need them to do it. We can't have states enacting legislation on a piece meal bases, because I don't think that's the approach that's going to be effective in addressing our immigration issues.

Ted Simons: So you have this bill, or you don't have this bill, and nothing gets done. Was it better to leave it alone, have nothing done?

Jorge Luis Garcia: Definitely. This is basically going to put one-third of Arizona in a very precarious situation. We will get pulled over by police if we have a burned out taillight, a headline that's blown or a windshield that's cracked, and if the officer suspects us to be here illegally, we -- if we meet the characteristics, they'll ask for our papers.

Ted Simons: Republican lawmakers say, and supporters of this bill say that there needs to be a reasonable attempt to ask for this identification. They say no one is going to cross a street and ask for identification. It has to be now something along the lines of a police contact, a detention, or a stop. Is that unreasonable?

Jorge Luis Garcia: Sheriff Joe Arpaio for the last two years, has gone out into predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods and has stopped people for minor infractions, traffic infractions. Yes, those are illegal acts, agreed, but if we're going to use the resources of the state and of the cities and the sheriffs to enforce traffic laws so we can get immigration law, that's ridiculous.

Ted Simons: Supporters of the bill say, you mentioned illegal crime sinned calls. They're saying this bill addresses law breakers as well, anyone who is here illegally. You can get it as simple as you want, what is it about illegal you don't understand, a bumper sticker mentality, but the argument is, if folks are here illegally, they need to be apprehended. They need to be addressed. Does that not make sense?

David Lujan: Well, I think you need an approach where you can enact state laws to go after the criminal syndicates on the border. That's where the states can be the most effective. But the federal government needs to have the immigration reform that's going to address the people that are coming across the border that are the landscapers, and the ones who are coming here to work. I think that's where we need federal immigration reform. The states, I think we can go enact laws to go after the syndicates. This law makes it more difficult to go after the criminal syndicates. It's going to have a chilling effect on potential witnesses who could be testifying against these criminal syndicates. The people, the individuals who are coming across illegally who would -- who have information about these criminal syndicates who could be witnesses against them, if they think they are going to be identified under this law, it's going to make it much more difficult for law enforcement to utilize them as witnesses in those cases.

Ted Simons: To that point, the governor says they will not be asked for their identification, that is explicitly written into the bill, that on those investigations, they will not be asked to produce papers.

David Lujan: I wonder how many of those people have actually read the bill and know that provision is in there? I don't think many of them have. And so that's the problem. These people haven't -- they don't know that's provisions in the law. And so they're just -- it's going to have a chilling effect on them. They're going to be audit frayed to come forward.

Ted Simons: The governor says this mirrors federal law. The state is only doing exactly what the federal law stipulates, only now the state can enforce whereas the feds don't seem to have any desire to do so. How do you respond?

Jorge Luis Garcia: You know, sheriff Arpaio has or had the 287G agreement. The last time I heard he was under review because he was going after your innocuous traffic violator, OK? Whereas the 287G was designed to go after the violent criminal. Where if you apprehended one, that you would be able to detain them using the resources of INS. What the government has done is basically said to the community that if your city has what's considered a sanction ware policy, people can be sued. The officials will be sued. That's what it does. And that's not what the federal government does.

Ted Simons: How do you -- do you see the same way as fares that idea of suing the city, suing government, suing municipalities for not fully enforcing the law? Your thoughts on that.

David Lujan: Well, I have tremendous respect for our law enforcement in Arizona. We have outstanding law enforcement, that are professionals, and I think they're -- their number one goal is to keep us safe. But this law I think puts them in a very difficult position in that it mandate that they enforce federal immigration laws. And to the extent that they need to be investigating other crimes, I think it can really put a hamper on public safety in terms of, we're saying the federal immigration officers first, and be law enforcement officers second. And if you don't do that, you have the opportunity for people to file litigation against the cities, and I think it's a bad approach to address the issue.

Ted Simons: And yet police unions, police line officers around the state seem to be in support of this bill. Police chiefs, not so much. But the officers, the boots on the ground, seem to like this bill. Is there a disconnect? What's going on here?

David Lujan: Well, I think as I said, I have tremendous respect for our law enforcement. And I think they will implement the law, our law officers don't want to engage in racial profiling. But it comes down to, how is this law written, and what position are we putting our officers who are on the streets? And I think that's the concern that the police chiefs and a lot of the sheriffs around the state see, and they are concerned about the position that their officers are going to be in because of how this law is written.

Ted Simons: Supporters of the bill say we have an illegal immigration problem. Hospitals are overcrowded, schools are overcrowded. Do you agree with that?

Jorge Luis Garcia: Of course not. You know. You know, the issue about the emergency rooms, hospitals being overcrowded, the St. Luke's group back in 2002 came out with their study, immigrants are not the cause of emergency room overcrowding. The issue is schools. I see that more as a fear of senator Pearce losing his neighborhood rather than -- because those individuals who now live in this -- in his own neighborhood, OK, used to live in the trees of the citrus groves that were there in east Mesa and Gilbert.

Ted Simons: So if you don't see an illegal immigration problem, you don't see a problem, then?

Jorge Luis Garcia: Well, I don't see a problem as it's perceived by the Republicans. OK? The problem that has to be addressed is it has to be comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. And that is such a divisive issue, OK? And it's been proven for the last two years, and I hope that our counterparts in Congress, they have a closer feel to it, they're optimistic something will be done.

Ted Simons: I asked the question, the same question, because if -- there are folks who don't see an illegal immigration problem, which means anything in this bill they'll be against because they don't see it as addressing a problem. Do we have an illegal immigration problem in Arizona?

David Lujan: Certainly our border is broken, and we need to secure the border. I think everybody would agree that we can't get a handle on this until the federal government, again, can control our border. But we need comprehensive immigration reform. And we need to be able to first of all get control of the border, but then we need to deal with the problem who are here, that are undocumented, and then -- but we also need to deal with the fact that we -- the employment situation, and the companies that need labor, are we going to provide a pathway to citizenship? Are we going provide means for people to come here? It's a complex situation, but we need federal immigration reform.

Ted Simons: Very quickly, boycotting Arizona, is that a good idea?

David Lujan: You know, as a legislator, we're going throughout worst economic crisis our state has ever seen. And what I would say is I would encourage people to not do business with those businesses that are encouraging this law. I haven't seen any businesses out there that are doing that, but I think it's the wrong approach when we're going through such difficult economic times.

Ted Simons: Quickly, boycott, good idea?

Jorge Luis Garcia: Good option.

Ted Simons: You like the idea?

Jorge Luis Garcia: It's a good option to enforce some change.

Ted Simons: All right. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us.

David Lujan:House Minority Leader;Jorge Luis Garcia:Senate Minority Leader;

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