Opponents blast, Pearce defends SB 1070 in Senate hearing

Posted: Updated:
Russell Pearce, former state senator and author of Senate Bill 1070, defends the immigration law. By Jennifer Thomas Russell Pearce, former state senator and author of Senate Bill 1070, defends the immigration law. By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- A Senate committee heard testimony on Arizona's controversial immigration law on Tuesday.

Opponents of Senate Bill 1070 blasted the legislation, which allows law enforcement to stop anyone they suspect is in the country illegally.

Former state Sen. Russell Pearce, author of SB 1070, was in Washington, D.C., to defend the law.

"In SB 1070 we prohibit racial profiling, in SB 1070 we say you have to have legitimate contact, in SB1070 we say you have to have reasonable suspicion," Pearce told the committee.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer has his doubts and accuses Arizona of racial profiling.

"They are knowingly writing their own laws and knowingly deploying untrained officers arresting anyone and everyone who might fit the preconceived profile of illegal immigrant," Schumer said.

"The illegal immigration problem is approximately $2.6 billion," Pearce said. "That is just to educate, medicate and incarcerate."

Former U.S. senator and Arizona native Dennis DeConcini said the law is an embarrassment. He used a 3TV story that showed how a Hispanic man with an accent was stopped and detained until he provided documentation.

"Police officers are trained to profile behavior not people, this law does the opposite," DeConcini said. "It profiles people and if you have brown skin in my state, you will be asked to prove your citizenship."

The largely one-sided hearing left Pearce as the only one on-hand to defend the state's law.

"We reached out to many Arizona officials and I'll say this for Mr. Pearce, he's the only one who would come," Schumer said.

Pearce called on the feds to take notice and do something about immigration.

"Mr. Chairman, we have a national crisis and yet we continue to ignore it," Pearce said. "Enforce our laws, secure our border. It's not too much to ask, Mr. Chairman."

He said he has support all over the country.

Democratic senators worry about minors who were brought to the country by their parents and could be eligible for citizenship through the Dream Act.

Pearce said those stories are the exception.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on SB 1070 Wednesday but a ruling is not likely until June.

Schumer said if the Supreme Court upholds SB 1070, he will introduce legislation banning states from having their own immigration laws.