A conservative border state is at risk of becoming a police state
Apr 22nd 2010 | LOS ANGELES | From The Economist print edition
RUSSELL PEARCE is the quintessential Arizona Republican. He wears stars-and-stripes shirts and has clips of John Wayne and Ronald Reagan on his website. He loves guns, his family, his Mormon faith, his country and the law, which he enforced for many years as deputy sheriff of Maricopa County. He jokes that being Republican, and thus not having a heart, saved his life when he got shot in the chest once. But his main passion is illegal immigrants, whom he calls “invaders”. He loathed them even before his son Sean, also a sheriff’s deputy, got shot by one. But now it is personal.
Mr Pearce, a state senator, has sponsored an Arizona law that, if enacted, would be the toughest in the country. It is so brazen it has caused outrage. This week it passed the last hurdles in the state legislature. As The Economist went to press, it was awaiting the signature of Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer.
Illegal immigration is a federal crime. Mr Pearce’s law, however, would also make it a state crime and would require the police, as opposed to federal agents, to make arrests and check the immigration status of individuals who look suspicious to them. Citizens who think their cops are not vigilant enough would be encouraged to sue their cities or counties, and no city or county may remain a “sanctuary” where this law is not enforced.
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