The author of a controversial anti-immigration bill in Arizona said on Tuesday that young children could simply get state-issued identification to prove they are in the U.S. legally.
Appearing before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, former Arizona state Senate president Russell Pearce (R) defended the state's SB 1070 law, which requires police to check the immigration status of suspects during traffic if there is a "reasonable suspicion" that they undocumented immigrants.
Committee Chairmen Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pressed Pearce on why the law's official training manual instructed officers that the way a person was dressed could constitute a "reasonable suspicion."
"Do you think that dress is an inappropriate measure?" Schumer asked. "Is there a reason to stop somebody because of their dress, and I would ask you if it's not inappropriate, what does an illegal immigrant dress like?"
"This is just a list of things that lead you to ask questions," Pearce explained. "You have to respond to reasonable suspicion to do your job, Mr. Chairman. And this is just a list of things to look for."
"Under federal law, under the U.S. Constitution and the Arizona Constitution, you know, we have the Equal Protection Clause," he added. "I knew those kinds of issues would be raised by those open-border folks that are against any enforcement. We've been sued on everything we've done from voting fraud -- to stop voting fraud -- to welfare fraud to going after illegal employers who compete illegally, immorally and have a competitive advantage over the honest employer. Doesn't seem like no matter what we do, Mr. Chairman, we're attacked for simply enforcing the law, trying to protect American citizens and jobs for Americans. ... We simply wrote the bill to preempt those kinds of silly arguments and try to protect everybody's rights."
Schumer also wondered why the bill did not exempt minors from having to produce proof of citizenship.
"Again, reasonableness is the thing," Pearce said.
"All the children can be checked and should be checked under the law and its regulations," Schumer pointed out. "What are the children supposed to show?"
"Mr. Chairman, if they don't have ID then they're not supposed to show anything," Pearce replied. "You're not required to have ID unless you're a driver or -- In Arizona, we allow parents to go and get an Arizona ID at any age if a parent so choses."
"So you think under this law, children, to prevent themselves from being sent to a detention center or whatever, would have to carry some kind of ID?" Schumer observed.
"Mr. Chairman, that's not accurate," the former Arizona Senate president insisted. "Mr. Chairman, there's a reasonableness, again, inferred. You know, you're taking the extreme and I understand trying to make a point, but, Mr. Chairman, it's just not accurate. It's just not so."
"This makes exceptions to law enforcement, you know to make reasonable decisions based on the circumstances at the time. I think it's demeaning to law enforcement to assume they don't know how to do their job in a respectful proper manner," he remarked.
"I'm just going to submit for the record Section 3B, and it doesn't make any exceptions at all," Schumer pointed out.
According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, official state photo identification cards are "available to all ages (including infants) for a fee of $12."
A department spokesperson told Raw Story that infants must have a birth certificate, a Social Security card and a parent with a valid Arizona ID to receive a photo identification card.
A study published this week by the Pew Hispanic Center found that over the last five years, immigration from Mexico to the United States has dropped to its lowest level in decades, hitting the key “net zero” benchmark just recently, where more Mexicans are moving out of the U.S. than there are coming in.
Watch the video below from the U.S. Senate, broadcast April 24, 2012.
-- With earlier reporting by Stephen C. Webster