State Senator: Arizona Immigration Bill Makes Latinos Targets of Criminals

By Melanie Arter | April 24, 2012 | 6:05pm EDT

Illegal immigrants at a detention facility in Los Angeles, Calif. (AP Photo)

( - Arizona State Sen. Steve Gallardo told a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Tuesday that the Arizona immigration bill, known as Senate Bill 1070, which gives police the authority to detain suspected illegal immigrants and requires them to provide documents proving immigration status, makes Latinos targets of criminals.


Gallardo, a Democratic lawmaker, testified that SB 1070 also scares women who are victims of domestic violence from reporting their abusers out of fear of being deported. He has submitted legislation to repeal the law.

"Senate bill 1070 made Latinos targets of criminals because Latinos are less likely to report crimes to law enforcement out of fear of having themselves deported or even a loved one deported. Many Latina women face nightmare situations if they are victims of domestic violence," Gallardo said in his opening statement.

"Because of Senate bill 1070, many of these women are placed in a position where they cannot report their abuser in fear of getting deported. In some cases, these women are held hostage in their own home. Mr. Chairman, members, no woman regardless of immigration status should ever be placed in harm's way," he added.

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Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in Hispanic neighborhoods in Chicago there are shelters for new immigrants and illegal immigrants so women and children who are victims of violence have a safe place to go.

"They had someone who would listen to them, counsel them and refer them to law enforcement in those circumstances where perhaps the husband has been abusive to the mother, the wife and even abusive to the child. I have supported them throughout my time in office, because I don't believe any of us want to see that happen, and we want to do everything we can to stop those guilty of that type of crime," Durbin said.

Durbin asked Gallardo if SB 1070 made it easier or harder for illegal immigrants to report domestic violence or abuse of their children to law enforcement.

Gallardo said the bill makes it harder to report abuse, because women are fearful that if they come forward, they may be separated from their children and deported.

"This law hasn't even been in effect, and we're already feeling the consequences," Gallardo said. It creates a wall between the community and law enforcement, which makes it harder for them to solve crime, the Arizona senator added.

"You ask any law enforcement officer in the state of Arizona, they will tell you the number one way for them to solve any type of crime is working real closely with the community. It's community policing. That's how they resolve crime. It's having folks going to law enforcement and reporting these types of crimes when they're victims or when they witness crimes," Gallardo said.

"This is exactly why Governor Brewer denied the invitation. She can't justify the very bill that she signed. It's these types of situations that if you ask her these questions, she can't answer them. because it has put a very polarizing sense with law enforcement in the community," he added.

A spokesman for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said she would not attend the hearing, because it is "a publicity stunt" and would not be "the most productive hearing" for her to attend. Republicans on the subcommittee also skipped the hearing.

Russell Pearce, a former Republican Arizona state senator, who wrote SB 1070, said illegal immigration is a national crisis.

"I'm a little disappointed in folks talk(ing) about embarrassed for the state of Arizona. Two to one across this country, we have a national crisis, and yet everyone wants to ignore that - the cost, the damage, the crime, and we can go through this, and if we have the time and are allowed the time, I could give you a lot more information too," said Pearce.

Pearce stressed that illegal immigration is not about race - it's about violating U.S. immigration law, and it just so happens that the majority of illegal immigrants are Hispanic.

"Illegal is a crime, not a race. It doesn't pick out any nationality. It just so happens 90 percent of those who violated our immigration laws come from across that southern border or are Hispanic. You know this law doesn't pick those out. I mean common sense: If I've got three kids in the middle of Sun City at three o'clock in the morning. I don't care what color they are, they're going to get stopped and questioned. Kids don't live in Sun City. Three o'clock in the morning's another element. I mean, just a little common sense," he said.

"Mr. Chairman, we have a national crisis, and yet we continue to ignore it. And there are some that run for office talking about build the darn fence but never hear it again once they're elected. I think Americans are a little tired of the drive-by statements by politicians instead of dealing with the issue at hand. Enforce our laws. Secure our border. It's not too much to ask, Mr. Chairman," Pearce added.

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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who serves as chairman of the subcommittee, said "big progress" has been made in that direction, and he chided his Republican colleagues for not attending the hearing.

"I'm sure it didn't escape notice that none of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle came to this hearing. THat's not surprising. They're absent from this hearing just like they've been absent from every attempt we've made to negotiate a comprehensive solution to our immigration problem. We need people to sit down, people on both sides of the aisle in a bi-partisan way and solve this problem. and we have been unable to find negotiating partners," Schumer said.

"And so the absence of people here today not only shows an unwillingness both in Arizona and here in Washington of them to defend this law or be associated with this law, but it shows an absence of an ability.... It's broader. We don't have anyone sitting down and saying, 'Here's what we want to do to solve this immigration problem.' We get a lot of rhetoric out there on the campaign trail, but we don't get any action even if they would disagree with the kind of proposal that I and my colleagues have made to do that. And so, they're not here. It's not surprising. It's been typical in terms of being absent on the entire immigration debate except in terms of rhetoric sometimes unfortunately very inflammatory," he added.

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