Expert: Pres. candidates inaccurate on AZ immigration laws

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Arizona was a hot topic at the second presidential debate Tuesday night.  But Valley experts said the candidates had trouble with inaccuracies when talking about Arizona immigration laws.

Immigration didn't come up at the first debate, but former Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama verbally jabbed each other over the issue in round two, framing much of the conversation around Arizona policies.

"Certainly Arizona has played a major role in that [immigration conversation] just historically speaking, so I wouldn't be surprised to hear a little more in terms of references to Arizona," said Marcus Dell'Artino from First Strategic, a political strategy group.

President Obama leveled the first immigration attack against Romney by aligning him with Arizona's controversial SB 1070.

"Part of the Arizona law said that law enforcement officers could stop folks because they suspected, maybe, they looked like they might be undocumented workers... and check their papers," said Obama.

"That's not in fact true and this has come up several times and multiple courts have ruled on this provision," said Dell'Artino, going on to clarify the Arizona immigration law. "If someone were to break into your house and during the course of the investigation it came out that the person who broke into your house was not a valid U.S. citizen, that's how that would work. But people just driving down the streets cannot legally be pulled over just because of the color of their skin."

In responding to Obama's criticism, Dell'Artino said Romney also flubbed Arizona policy by lumping together two separate laws (E-Verify and SB 1070) passed years apart.

"I said that the E-Verify portion of the Arizona law... which is the portion of the law which says that employers could be able to determine whether someone is here illegally or not illegally... that that was a model for the nation," Romney told the town hall crowd at Hofstra University.

Neither Obama nor debate moderator Candy Crowley corrected the inaccuracy.

"There was clearly a mix up last night and it probably should have been clarified on the debate last night," said Dell'Artino.

Obama also criticized Romney by saying his top immigration adviser is the author of SB 1070. 

Although Romney didn't respond to that charge during the debate, experts said Obama was referring to current Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who Romney has called an informal adviser.