Rep. Becerra and Sheriff Babeu Debate Immigration Law

Rep. Becerra and Sheriff Babeu Debate Immigration Law

By The Situation Room - April 28, 2010

BLITZER: Right now the state of Arizona is facing the threat of a boycott over its new very tough immigration law, and that's just one of the ideas being tossed around by opponents who say the law would violate civil rights and open the door to racial profiling. Joining us now, Congressman Xavier Bacerra of California, he's one the House Democrats urging President Obama to challenge the law and to promote comprehensive reform. Also with us, the Pinal County sheriff in Arizona, Paul Babeu. He's a vocal supporter of Arizona's new law. Gentlemen, thanks to both of you for coming in. Congressman Becerra, has the Obama administration done enough to protect the borders with Mexico?

REP. XAVIER BACERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: Wolf, they've done more than any president has in the past, but certainly we can continue to do more because there is growing violence emanating from Mexico. I don't think anyone thinks we've done enough. Certainly this president has done more than any president before him.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that, Sheriff?

SHERIFF PAUL BABEU, PINAL COUNTY, ARIZONA: Absolutely not. In fact, President Bush had deployed 6,000 soldiers to the border and I was honored to serve as one of them and that's why Senator McCain and John Kyl proposed 3,000 soldiers to the border and in fact, that's exactly what we need. You want to have sheriffs and law enforcement leaders actually calling for troops to help us address a crime situation in our state, if that wasn't the case.

BLITZER: The argument, Congressman Bacerra, that they're making the supporters of the new law in Arizona, is just a dangerous situation. The violence along the border, illegal immigrants coming in and the federal government not doing enough. They had to take the ball into their own court. What's wrong with that argument, Congressman?

BACERRA: Well, there's nothing wrong with an argument if you want to protect yourself or do something to help protect your citizens. It does become a problem when you do it in a way that is unconstitutional. It would be an unconstitutional invasion of people's privacy rights and also a violation of the fourth amendment. So there's nothing wrong with Arizonians trying to protect themselves lawfully and nothing wrong with local law enforcement trying to protect its citizens. It's just when you try to go into federal law and you want to create racial profiling and implement this.

BLITZER: Can you do it without racial profiling?

BABEU: Absolutely. With due respect to our Congressman, this is a mirror copy of the federal law that we just made as a state law. And it's a class one misdemeanor here in Arizona. How we work in law enforcement, we do not profile. Every day our officers across America respond to emergencies or calls for service and we put all those building blocks of reasonable suspicion and probable cause in order to respect the fourth amendment and our constitution, and we take lawful action.

BACERRA: So, Wolf --

BABEU: My staff, which are Hispanic and a third of our population. So clearly, we're going to do so with due regard as protectors of our community. BLITZER: Congressman, you disagree with that. Go ahead.

BACERRA: I respect the sheriff and I applaud him for his service and I thank him for his service because we need folks who will stand up to help protect the citizens, but sheriff there is no way you will tell me that you will determine that someone is unlawfully in the country without profiling. There is nothing to try to determine whether someone has the right on walk on a street or not. The law permits any law enforcement official in the state of Arizona who makes contact, lawful contact with an individual. That means we could be crossing paths on a street, making contact so long as they don't do it illegally allow the officer to ask questions, on what basis? We don't know and while he may not have concerns about it, maybe he will enforce the law. We know that this is far from constitutional and we've gone through things like separate, but equal and other things that people say they're OK and still be constitutional.

BLITZER: Go ahead Sheriff.

BABEU: Here in Arizona, we've been stopping cars and for a primary purpose and just last night, we have the deputies stopping vehicles for speeding or for other violations and when we have contact, here's what reasonable suspicion is. If I ask you for your driver's license, registration and proof of insurance as we do with every motorist, it now, if you don't give us an Arizona or another state's driver's license ask say it's a Mexican national driver's license or I.D., that gets us to the point now, that's a clue in law enforcement when we can ask, hey, where are you from, do you have permanent precedence here?

BLITZER: But Sheriff, let me though out a hypothetical to you. You have a bunch of guys who are standing in a street corner, day laborers can you just go over there? They're peaceful and standing by waiting for a truck, let's say, can you go over there and ask for their papers?

BABEU: Well, here that always there's a lawful purpose and a contact that for us to go out there and do, that that's a little bit of a stretch and here.

BACERRA: That's a lawful contact, Sheriff.

BABEU: It is a lawful contact. In fact, we have border patrol on.

BACERRA: That gives people the right to ask people who are standing whether they are here legally or not. Why ask someone standing as a day laborer and not standing in front of Macy's department store. What's the difference?

BABEU: Here's where Arizona happens to be a border state and when we've had literally hundreds of thousands of people who are here illegally, and this is the key word.

BACERRA: I respect that. I don't contest that, Sheriff. We agree with you on that and we understand the frustration and the fear of folks in Arizona, but that doesn't give us the right to violate citizens' constitutional right. I want you to go after the folks trying to harm the citizens of Arizona and the citizens of California, but to do it lawfully.

BABEU: Absolutely, and we do everything lawfully.

BACERRA: But you can make a lawful contact at any point.

BABEU: People put out all of the time referring to law enforcement here in Arizona as Jack boot thugs and all these other extreme --

BACERRA: I never said that.

BABEU: You haven't said that, absolutely and this is where we ask people that --

BLITZER: I want to be precise, Sheriff. On the hypothetical, it's a hypothetical, a bunch of guys standing on a street corner waiting to get a job and hoping that some guy will pull up with a truck and say we'll go out and do this work, is that reasonably suspicious enough for you to say I want to see your papers?

BABEU: It's reasonable enough to have a conversation with a person and to establish, absolutely, for here in Arizona, where this is -

BLITZER: Even if they're peaceful and not doing anything wrong? They're just standing there?

BABEU: There are laws currently in Arizona for people standing on the street and this is where we've had issues like this throughout Arizona, where there could be ten, 20 people who are standing that it's a law currently that people cannot go and pick up illegal immigrants and take them to jobs or to work, and this is where -- why are we here in this situation, in this crisis?

BLITZER: Congressman ...

BABEU: Here in law enforcement people trust us with doing everything from making an arrest and to suspend someone's law enforcement.

BACERRA: Sheriff, no one challenges your good faith. That's not the point here and we want you to do what we can to avoid the death of another rancher in Arizona or the harm to any Arizonan.

BABEU: Or police officers.

BACERRA: We'll be happy to give you more police officers, the cops on the beat program.

BABEU: No, you haven't.

BACERRA: What I don't want my father to be for my father to be pulled over, he grew up in Mexico and his English is still broken and he probably has an appearance that might cause someone to say he may not be here legally.

BLITZER: Hold up for a second because we are out of time, but a quick question to the Congressman Bacerra. Do you support a boycott of Arizona?

BACERRA: If the Arizona politicians think this is courageous leadership, then I am one of those who believes that Arizona, its leadership is telling me it doesn't want my business.

BABEU: Congressman, what's your solution to this?

BACERRA: We have to have sensible laws to vote to the business of arresting people who are harming folks in your community and go after the crime in your community and let us deal with, as you said, beefed up border enforcement.

BABEU: Are you going to send soldiers to the border to stop the flow of hundreds of thousands of people who are coming across our unsecured border in Arizona?

BACERRA: We need to send you more law enforcement authority to take care of the border, absolutely. That way you can focus your taxpayer-funded police officers on crime in your community, absolutely.

BABEU: That's why we have done this. In the absence of federal action.

BACERRA: And Wolf there is the answer. I'm not going to judge what the sheriff and others are trying to deal with. They are dealing with the frustration and anger that's out there and the fear. We have to take care of that. That's why we need to act here now to resolve these broken immigration laws.

BABEU: Congressman, then I asked you to support the Senator McCain and Kyl plan that literally brings it. This is more important than Senate bill 1070 in my opinion. If we stop the flow, then some day we can have a more meaningful discussion about what we do with the 13th bus.

BLITZER: We have to leave it here, but it's a good discussion and we would love to have you both back if you are willing. Appreciate it very much.

BABEU: Absolutely.

BACERRA: Thank you. Thanks sheriff.


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