Sparking demonstrations, Arizona State Senator Steve Gallardo, a Democrat from Phoenix, recently introduced a bill to repeal the state’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070.
After SB 1070 was signed into law in 2010, the U.S. Justice Department sued to block it from taking effect, arguing it encouraged racial profiling and unconstitutionally usurped the federal government’s authority over U.S. immigration matters. A federal court blocked the most contentious aspects of the law, such as a measure empowering police officers to determine the citizenship status of people stopped for minor infractions, including traffic violations.
Arizona appealed the federal injunction and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, but in the meantime, Gallardo and his legislative allies are seeking to overturn the law at the state level.
In a statement announcing the bill, Gallardo pointed to Joe Arpaio, the controversial sheriff of Maricopa County known for his hard-line stance on immigration. Gallardo stressed that Arpaio’s immigration enforcement tactics have resulted in charges of racial profiling from the U.S. Department of Justice, and that enactment of SB 1070 would require law enforcement officers throughout the state to adopt similar methods.
“Today I am proposing a repeal of SB 1070 because we cannot ask our hard working, loyal and dedicated law enforcement professionals across the state to play this Tea Party game,” Gallardo said. “We cannot ask them to terrorize our ethnic minorities with random questioning because of their skin color.”
Advocates for repeal confronted supporters of SB 1070 outside the capitol building on January 23, the day the bill was introduced. Although both sides of the debate were represented outside the capitol, there have been signs that public support of SB 1070 is eroding. In November, voters recalled the bill’s author, former Senate President Russell Pearce.
Inside the capitol, it appeared uncertain whether the bill will be granted a hearing, given strong Republican opposition. Gallardo said he wants to spark conversation and hopes public pressure will compel lawmakers to consider his proposal, according to The Associated Press.