Media Matters Action Network

A Look Back At Two Years Of Arizona's SB 1070

April 24, 2012 2:28 pm ET by Salvatore Colleluori

Tomorrow the United States Supreme Court will hold hearings in Arizona v. United States on their way to deciding the fate of Arizona's controversial immigration enforcement law, SB 1070 (and by extension the fate of the many copycat versions that have passed around the country — most notably in Alabama and Georgia). Since this legislation's introduction and subsequent passage, it has been a point of controversy not just in Arizona, but throughout the country.

Defenders of the law claim that SB 1070 is necessary to stop crime in Arizona, but crime had been falling across the United States overall, including in Arizona, prior to the law's passage. Even Jan Brewer, Arizona's governor admitted that the law "doesn't have anything to do with border security." In fact, despite rampant crime on the Mexican side of the border, in both 2010 when SB 1070 was passed and again in 2011, border towns were some of the safest cities in America.

Proponents of the law also claim that it merely mirrors existing federal law and therefore they are helping the federal government do their job. However, as pointed out, the law "does more than merely mirror federal law" and actually potentially allows for racial profiling. The laws lead sponsor, the recently recalled Senate Majority Leader Russell Pearce, has compared immigrants to a "cow with mad cow disease" and held an immigration policy summit where he questioned whether or not President Obama is "illegal." After the law's passage, Pearce claimed the immigration system wasn't broken and said that he wanted to send the message that "illegal immigrants" are "not welcome in Arizona."

Unlike Pearce, whose approval decreased after the law's passage, the law's author, current Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, benefitted from an elevated national profile. Kobach has helped author several anti-immigrant laws across the country, most notably the precursors to SB 1070 in Hazelton, PA and Fremont, NE, while racking up $6.6 million in fees. For his work with SB 1070 alone, he received $13,000 in fees. Kobach has had a history of anti-immigrant rhetoric, and previously worked for the Immigration Reform Law Institute — the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) a Southern Poverty Law Center-labeled hate group. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney even made him an advisor on his campaign until controversy over Kobach's polarizing views on immigration recently forced Romney to attempt to disassociate himself with Kobach.

SB 1070 brought national attention to immigration enforcement in Arizona, a conversation that has empowered and showcased two notorious proponents of the bill -- Arizona sheriffs Joe Arpaio and Paul Babeu. Sheriff Arpaio, who is also known for the extreme treatment of his prisoners in Maricopa County, is facing a corruption scandal and a civil rights investigation by the Justice Department. Recently, it was exposed that he botched more than 400 sex crime investigations, "including dozens of alleged child molestations."

Babeu, who has used his fame to run for the House of Representatives in Arizona, also has a history of anti-immigrant behavior. In 2010 Babeu appeared on the "pro-white" radio show Political Cesspool and The Alex Jones Show, which is hosted by 9-11 truther and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. In 2011, he was the keynote speaker at FAIR's "Hold Their Feet To The Fire" conference which seeks to advance reforms "that relieve many of the burdens that mass immigration — legal and illegal — imposes on the American people."

Given the continued push nationwide to enact similar legislation, Americans should be aware that the implications of this case go far beyond the Arizona state lines.

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