SB 1070 Author: Law Has Already Led to Thousands of Self-Deportations, Lower Crime Rates, 13 School Closings

By Penny Starr | April 24, 2012 | 9:17pm EDT

Former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce held up a copy of the U.S. Constitution and the copy of the Arizona immigration law he authored at a press conference on April 24, 2012 on Capitol Hill. The U.S. Supreme will hear arguments for and against the law on Wednesday. ( Starr)

( – As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments for and against four parts of Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration bill, which were signed into law two years ago, its lead author said the six portions that were not blocked by a federal judge have already had a positive impact in the state.

Arizona’s “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” (SB 1070) was signed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in April 2010. The U.S. Justice Department is challenging Arizona to try to stop the law, as are other groups. A federal judge of the Ninth District issued a temporary injunction against four parts (out of 10) of the law in July 2010, and the case has now reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

At a press conference on Tuesday on Capitol Hill, former State Senator Russell Pearce said that the law has achieved several of its goals, including the voluntary departure of thousands of illegal aliens from Arizona, a reduction in crime and prison population, and a shrinking number of students in Mesa Public Schools that led to the closure of 13 elementary schools.

At the press conference -- one day before arguments are heard before the Supreme Court on certain aspects of the Arizona law -- Pearce responded to a question from a reporter about whether the blockage of the law by the U.S. Justice Department has had a negative impact on the state.

“First of all, [the law] is not blocked,” Russell said. “And those six [legal steps] that are in effect are really the meat of 1070.”

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for and against four portions of SB 1070. The portions include allowing Arizona law enforcement officers, upon reasonable suspicion, to determine the immigration status of any person lawfully stopped, detained or arrested; making it a state crime for an unauthorized immigrant to violate federal registration laws; criminalizing working or attempting to work by any unlawfully present alien; and authorizing Arizona law enforcement officers to make a warrantless arrest  if they have probable cause to believe a person has committed an offense that makes them removable from the United States.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer points at President Barack Obama after he arrived at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

The parts of the law that went into effect 90 days after the legislation was passed and signed into law have been “good” for Arizona, according to Pearce.

Pearce said that statistics from the Department of Homeland Security and other groups  show that between 100,000 and 200,000 illegal aliens have voluntarily left the state since most of it went into effect in 2010.

“We have a violent crime rate drop by three times that of the national average,” Pearce said. “My school district – Mesa – the largest school in the state, can close 13 elementary schools because of the declining population in K-12, out of neighborhoods known for high concentrations of illegals.”

“Our prison population’s on the decline for the first time in the history of the state of Arizona,” Pearce said, adding that there are about 2,500 fewer inmates in Arizona prisons today than there were before the law went into effect.

“That means less crime, less victims, that means a little more respect for law,” Pearce said. “So the good things are pretty clear.”

Pearce predicted at the press conference that the Supreme Court  would reach a 5-3 decision in favor of the Arizona law, which the Obama administration will argue preempts the federal government’s authority to enforce the nation’s immigration laws.

“The states have never, ever been preempted from enforcing immigration law,” Pearce said. “Had Congress wanted to preempt the states from enforcing that law they could have used their plenary powers.”

“That has never been done,” Pearce said. “The courts have sided with states and the historical and constitutional state powers on this issue alone for the last 40 years.”

Parties who have filed amicus briefs in support of SB 1070 and Arizona include the Landmark Legal Foundation, Liberty Legal Foundation, Cochise County (Arizona) Sheriff Larry Dever and Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joseph Arpaio.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Those joining the Obama administration’s Department of Justice in filing amicus briefs against the Arizona law include the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Council of La Raza, the Anti-Defamation League and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The court is expected to rule on the case sometime in June.

In a statement on its amicus brief, the ACLU said: “Immigration has long been regarded as a federal responsibility. In exercising that responsibility, Congress has enacted a comprehensive set of rules governing who can enter the country and who can remain. Arizona, followed by other states, has enacted its own law, S.B. 1070, that gives state law enforcement officers broad authority to interrogate, arrest and detain undocumented persons. The ACLU and a coalition of civil rights groups have challenged SB 1070 on the ground that it is inconsistent with federal law and preempted under the Supremacy Clause. We have made the same arguments in an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court in this case.”

In a statement from July 2010 by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, whose office joined with the DOJ against the Arizona law, she said: “We are actively working with members of Congress from both parties to comprehensively reform our immigration system at the federal level because this challenge cannot be solved by a patchwork of inconsistent state laws, of which this is one.  While this bipartisan effort to reform our immigration system progresses, the Department of Homeland Security will continue to enforce the laws on the books by enhancing border security and removing criminal aliens from this country.” 

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