Amid a presidential election cycle marked by anti-immigrant rhetoric, we take a look at how the national campaigns are affecting state politics in Arizona. A number of anti-immigrant bills are currently making their way through the Arizona state Legislature. On Thursday, House lawmakers gave initial approval to a measure that would require undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes to serve maximum prison terms without the possibility of probation or early release. Other bills under consideration here would withhold money from sanctuary cities and bar state funds from being used to resettle refugees. Last month, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed another measure that requires undocumented people convicted of crimes to serve a longer portion of their prison sentences before they are turned over to immigration authorities for deportation. For more, we speak with Isabel Garcia, co-chair of Coalición de Derechos Humanos, or Coalition for Human Rights, based here in Tucson. She just retired from her post as Pima County legal defender last July after more than 22 years.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We’re on the road in Tucson, Arizona. We turn now to the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the 2016 presidential race and how it could be impacting state policy right here in Arizona.
DONALD TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump speaking last June. Is his rhetoric now becoming policy? Here in Arizona, a number of anti-immigrant bills are making their way through the state Legislature. On Thursday, House lawmakers gave initial approval to a measure that would require undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes to serve maximum prison terms without the possibility of probation or early release. The bill has already passed the Arizona state Senate. Other bills under consideration here would withhold money from sanctuary cities and bar state funds from being used to resettle refugees. On March 30th, the Arizona governor, Doug Ducey, signed another measure that requires undocumented people convicted of crimes to serve a longer portion of their prison sentences before they’re turned over to immigration authorities for deportation. Back in 2010, Arizona faced boycotts and national condemnation for its sweeping anti-immigrant law, SB 1070. But advocates say the state saw a lull in anti-immigration bills — until Trump’s rhetoric helped reignite the issue.
To talk more about the landscape here in Arizona, we’re joined by Isabel Garcia. She’s co-chair of Coalición de Derechos Humanos, or Coalition for Human Rights, based here in Tucson. She just retired from her post as Pima County legal defender last July after more than 22 years.
Great to have you with us, Isabel.
ISABEL GARCIA: Good to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: And unlike Bill O’Reilly a number of years ago when you went on, we will not shut off your mic as you speak.
ISABEL GARCIA: Good.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what’s happening here in Arizona.
ISABEL GARCIA: Well, if you recall, I was with you in New York City a week before 1070 was signed back in 2010. And here we are again. The state, of course, has been the leader in anti-human measures to be applied to immigrants. And there was a lull after the boycotts. We’ve got to be very clear that the only reason that this Legislature stopped in 2011 was because of the boycotts. They were —
AMY GOODMAN: Explain who was pushing them.
ISABEL GARCIA: The boycotts were being organized by the communities all over Arizona — in Phoenix, lots of organizing; here in Tucson, lots of organizing. And there were even politicians that called for a boycott of Arizona because of the repressive measures that were included within 1070.
AMY GOODMAN: Did corporations join in?
ISABEL GARCIA: Corporations were on the outside until 2011. 2010 is when it was signed. In 2011, they passed — they had another bill that was about to pass. The night before passing, 60 CEOs of the top corporations in Arizona authored a letter and had it delivered to the Legislature that morning, telling them to stop it, that the boycotts had caused lots of damage here in Arizona, that they understood the issues, you know, cause problems, but that it was time to stop. So, yes, the 60 top companies in Arizona put a stop to it, after the fact. I’d like to say that they joined in our humanitarian concerns. They were not involved in that. They were involved with their bottom dollar.
AMY GOODMAN: So, explain what these laws are now that have passed parts of the Legislature.
ISABEL GARCIA: So, as you’ve stated, the one that is being the closest to being passed right now is the one that violates equal protection. In other words, saying that undocumented immigrants would face totally different range — the same range of penalties, but would have to serve the maximum, not be allowed to be released in any kind of form, and would have to serve the maximum allowable. So if it’s a misdemeanor, you know, punishable by six months, you get the six months. If you’re punishable by five years, you would get the maximum. I don’t see how that can pass constitutional muster.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s go to what the Arizona governor said. On March 30th, Governor Doug Ducey signed HB 2451, which requires undocumented people convicted of crimes to serve a longer portion of their prison sentences before they’re turned over to immigration authorities for deportation. In a statement, Governor Ducey said in part, quote, “Public safety is the number one role of government, and in light of reports that criminals released early without serving their full sentence are committing crimes in our communities, we must stand for the rule of law.” This is a different law.
ISABEL GARCIA: That is a different one, and that has been signed. This is a law that permits undocumented people to be considered for release after serving half of their term, if they have a final order of deportation. So nobody’s staying in the community. And, of course, we cut — through Governor Symington, we cut parole for other people to 85 percent, so already we’re in — causing mass incarceration. And now we had an opportunity with Mexicans to be deported after serving half their time. Now this new legislation is for people who are being charged right now. They would be convicted — if they’re convicted, they would have to serve the maximum allowable. They would not be allowed, you know, consideration for either probation or any kind of early release. Or let’s say the judge wants to give you a minimum sentence; they would have to give them the maximum.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the killings by Border Patrol here in Arizona and how legislation SB 1070 plays a role.
ISABEL GARCIA: Well, 1070 plays a role in the fact that people are deported. Once people are whisked away — you go to a school to leave your child, and all of a sudden you don’t come back. Two hours later, you’re in Mexico. We have cases where people, trying to come back, die in the desert. After being here 15 years, have [inaudible] died crossing back to be with his five children here in Tucson. So, the racism that has been engendered with 1070 —
AMY GOODMAN: And again, 1070 is?
ISABEL GARCIA: SB 1070 is the bill that we call “Show Me Your Papers, Please.” Although the Supreme Court was wise enough to really reject other portions, they did not reject Section 2B, which says if a police officer has reasonable suspicion that you’re in the country in violation of federal immigration laws, he or she can detain you. Now, the Supreme Court said they couldn’t detain you longer than it takes to give you a ticket, but we have many cases where they detained them 40 minutes, 50 minutes, waiting for the police department. In other words, it’s legalized racial profiling.