The author of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, known as SB 1070, defended the law during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday morning.
The law does not lead to racial profiling on behalf of the police, said Pearce, a former Arizona state senator, who lost a recall election in November. Pearce is now the president of BanAmnestyNow.com.
“Being illegal is a crime,” Pearce said. “Laws without consequences are no laws at all. This is about the rule of law.” SB 1070 focuses on people in the country without the government’s permission, he said--not of people of a particular race.
But Arizona state Sen. Steve Gallardo (D), who also testified at the hearing chaired by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., disagreed.
“They have to use race to enforce SB 1070,” he said.
Under the law, police officers are required to check the status of those who have been arrested before they can be released. They are also empowered to stop and arrest anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant.
Gallardo put forth a hypothetical to prove his point: What if a police officer was asked to chose who was in the country illegally, Gallardo or Pearce?
“They’d be looking at me,” he said. Gallardo is of a darker complexion, while Pearce is fair-skinned.
Pearce responded that the law prohibits racial profiling. He called accusations that officers would use race to ferret out illegal immigrants demeaning to law enforcement.
Dennis W. DeConcini, an Arizona lawyer, said that law-enforcement agents had told him that the law constituted racial profiling. He lamented how political the issue of immigration had become.
Todd Landfried, executive director of Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform, said that Arizona and other states that had passed similar laws have lost millions of dollars from canceled hotel bookings, a lack of agricultural and service-industry workers, and a loss of consumers as people left the state.
He urged Congress to reform federal immigration laws, taking into account businesses’ demand for labor and the need for security on the border.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of four provisions of the law on Wednesday.
Schumer said that he would introduce legislation to block Arizona's law even if the Supreme Court upheld the law.