U.S. senator asks Brewer to testify on SB1070
PHOENIX -- The head of a U.S. Senate subcommittee wants Gov. Jan Brewer to tell him and his colleagues why she thinks Arizona needs its own law aimed at illegal immigration.
But Brewer isn't interested.
Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. is planning an April 24 hearing of his Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security to look at both the legality and the sense of having state and local governments enforcing immigration law.
The hearing comes more than a year after Congress approved more than $600 million to hire 1,000 new Border Patrol agents for the southern border and 250 new agents for the ports of entry. Schumer said the legislation has had "dramatic results' in decreasing illegal immigration.
Now he wants to hear from Brewer.
In a letter Thursday to the governor, Schumer asked her to testify why she signed SB 1070 in 2010. That law is designed to give state and police more power to detain and arrest illegal immigrants.
The senator also told Brewer he wanted to know "whether you believe SB 1070 is necessary in light of the substantially increased security situation along our southern border.' And, perhaps most pointedly, Schumer said he hoped Brewer would discuss whether SB 1070 should remain in perpetuity "irrespective of whether conditions further improve along the southern border.'
The letter also baited the governor a little bit, pointing out how she has frequently asked President Obama to visit the Mexican border to discuss security.
"We expect that you will be eager to engage in a productive dialogue with the congressional committee responsible for acting upon any border security recommendations you provide,' Schumer wrote.
Brewer press aide Matthew Benson acknowledged his boss already plans to be in Washington that week, at public expense, to listen to arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 25 about the legality of the law.
A trial judge, ruling on a challenge brought by the Obama administration, blocked the state from enforcing key provisions, ruling they were preempted by federal law. That ruling was upheld by a federal appeals court.
But Benson said the Republican governor has no interest in participating in the congressional hearing.
"This looks like a publicity stunt for Sen. Schumer,' he said.
"Congressional inaction by the likes of Sen. Schumer is exactly the reason SB 1070 and other laws like it were necessary in the first place,' Benson said.
"They've had years to deal with this issue,' he continued. "They haven't.'
Schumer does not see it that way.
In his letter, Schumer said Brewer recently called SB 1070 "Arizona's way of saying that we won't wait patiently for federal action any longer.' And the governor has repeatedly said that if the federal government will not secure the border, the state will step in.
Schumer suggested that even if SB 1070 were necessary when Brewer signed it, that is no longer the case after his legislation was approved several months later.
Aside from the increase in Border Patrol agents, Schumer said his legislation created a "strike force' that can be deployed in different areas of the Southwest border depending on need. He also said there were funds for unmanned drones, improved communications capabilities between federal and local officers, forward operating bases for the Border Patrol, and increased funding to boost the number of prosecutors and court resources.
The result, Schumer wrote to Brewer, is that the Border Patrol is at 21,300 now compared to about 10,000 in 2004, when George W. Bush was president. At the same time, he said, apprehensions of border crossers are down, "indicating that far fewer people are attempting to illegally cross the border.'
Benson said the governor sees no reason to spend time debating that with Schumer on the Hill.
"The last thing the American people need is more talk from Congress when it comes to illegal immigration,' he said. Anyway, Benson said Brewer does not believe the hearing will be "productive.'
While Brewer won't get to talk during the April 25 Supreme Court hearing, she is expected to have a press conference in front of the courthouse afterwards, as she did more than a year ago when she went to Washington to watch the court arguments over a bill allowing the state to punish employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. The justices eventually upheld the legality of that law.