Seven states may seek to pass Arizona-style laws in 2011 that crack down on illegal immigration, according to a report from an immigration advocacy organization.
In the wake of the passage of Arizona's stringent immigration law, leaders of an immigration reform movement were arrested during a peaceful protest in Washington, D.C., in May. (Photo: Nevele Otseog)
National Immigration Forum (NIF) released in late December a report titled "Deficits, Lawsuits, Diminished Public Safety: Your State Can't Afford SB 1070."
Founded in 1982, NIF identifies itself as having "a mission to advocate for the value of immigrants" and encouraging "a better, more welcoming America – one that treats all newcomers fairly."
One of NIF's board members is Warren H. Stewart Sr., pastor of First Institutional Baptist Church of Phoenix and active member of the Baptist World Alliance.
The NIF report said that the Arizona law, passed in the spring of 2010, was the "nation's harshest and most controversial immigration law." It said that "measures like Arizona's SB 1070 ... only make our broken immigration system even more dysfunctional."
NIF said the law "makes it a state crime to fail to apply for or carry proper immigration documentation and gives police broad power to detain those suspected of being unlawfully present in the country. Further, SB 1070 allows citizens to sue law enforcement agencies whose enforcement efforts they consider to be insufficient and toughens laws against the performance of work by unauthorized immigrants and the transport or harboring of persons lacking valid immigration status."
USA Today noted that "the U.S. Department of Justice sued Arizona, arguing that immigration enforcement was solely a federal responsibility. In July, a federal judge blocked the core aspects of the law, known as SB 1070, and the ruling is under appeal."
Ignoring the legal battle over SB 1070, some state legislators say they plan to pursue an Arizona-style law, including those in Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Writing in the Tennessean before Christmas, Tennessee state Rep. Joe Carr (R-Lascassas) said that he and state Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) would introduce Arizona-style legislation in 2011.
A self-described conservative Christian, Carr said Tennessee voters desired the rule of law.
He accused illegal immigrants of taking jobs away from Tennessee residents, engaging in crime and burdening the health care, education and judicial systems. He said the children of illegal immigrants were on free or reduced lunch programs in schools.
Ketron, a member of the First United Methodist Church of Murfreesboro, said he planned to reintroduce a bill that would require proof of a Social Security number to receive "a driver's certificate" and would require tests for driver's licenses to be offered only in English.
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Tennessee's newly elected Republican governor, Bill Haslam, said in a summer campaign advertisement, "Is illegal immigration really a problem in Tennessee? You'd better believe it is."
"Arizona stepped up and passed a tough new law that addresses the unique challenges they face," he said in the ad, "and Tennessee should do the same."
A member of Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Haslam identified himself during the campaign as a Bible-reading, pro-life and pro-gun Christian.
According to USA Today, Georgia state Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) said the state's 450,000 illegal immigrants "cost the state more than $1 billion each year in emergency medical care, K-12 education and jail costs."
Ramsey, a member of Peachtree City United Methodist Church, said he was exploring an Arizona-style law.
Georgia's newly elected Republican governor, Nathan Deal, said during the gubernatorial race: "I agree with the Arizona governor and legislature that the federal government has failed miserably at protecting our borders and enacting sensible solutions that would protect our states, counties and cities from bearing the enormous costs associated with illegal immigration, from emergency room visits to public schools to the criminal justice system."
Deal, a member of First Baptist Church of Gainesville, introduced the "Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009" when he was a U.S. congressman. That bill would have removed the birthright of U.S. citizenship for babies born to undocumented immigrants, but allowed it if one parent were a U.S. citizen.
In Oklahoma, state Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) announced last year his plans to introduce legislation that will be tougher than Arizona's law.
"I plan to offer Arizona Plus, which would go beyond Arizona's law by allowing law enforcement to seize assets used to facilitate illegal immigration," said Terrill, a member of Southgate Baptist Church in Moore. "I will also be introducing several other anti-illegal immigration measures."
Terrill said he supported a law that would prevent children born in Oklahoma of illegal immigrants from being allowed to become U.S. citizens.
According to media reports, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and its legal arm, Immigration Reform Law Institute, are helping craft state bills similar to SB 1070, as they have in Utah.
Three years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a civil rights organization, labeled FAIR a hate group.
"The founder, chief ideologue and long-time funder of FAIR is a racist," SPLC said.
"Key staff members have ties to white supremacist groups, some are members, and some have spoken at hate group functions. FAIR has accepted more than $1 million from a racist foundation devoted to studies of race and IQ, and to eugenics – the pseudo-science of breeding a better human race that was utterly discredited by the Nazi euthanasia program. It spreads racist conspiracy theories. Its political ads have caused numerous politicians, Democratic and Republican, to denounce it."