Rep. Grijalva & Sheriff Arpaio Debate Immigration

Rep. Grijalva & Sheriff Arpaio Debate Immigration

By John King, USA - July 6, 2010

YELLIN: Arizona is ground zero for the fight over illegal immigration, a fight that's provoking strong passions on both sides of the issue. Joining me now from phoenix is Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, and in Tucson, Democratic Arizona congressman, Raul Grijalva. Thanks to both of you for being here.

And Sheriff Joe, I want to start with you. You've always said that you needed to take immigration matters into your own hands, but the federal government is saying with this lawsuit that, essentially, you don't have the right. They say that's a federal responsibility, not a state's right. What's your reaction?

SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA: First of all, we've been enforcing two other state laws regarding illegal immigration for three years. I've been the poster boy. We have investigated, arrested, detained in our jails 40,000 illegal aliens. Where is all of the problems, even though the Department of Justice launched an investigation, 60 days into the Obama administration, going after me to civil rights, for alleged racial profiling? But nothing's happened. It's been a year and a half. Janet Napolitano took away my 100 deputies, trained by homeland security, to enforce the federal immigration laws. Took that away from me.

The federal government should be asking law enforcement to help them like we do in all other federal types of crimes. So, I think that this is strictly politics. Congressman's colleagues in the Congress started a hearing against me way back a year and a half ago, went to the Attorney General Holder, went to Janet Napolitano, asking me to be investigated. But we're here to help. To help with federal government.

YELLIN: Let me ask you about this because -- and I'll give the congressman an opportunity to respond in just a moment, but as part of the government's lawsuit, they have also submitted three statements from law enforcement officials in your state of Arizona who say that the Arizona law will not help them. It will be a problem. One statement says that shifting the burden of immigration enforcement and responsibility cannot be justified or sustained. It's too much of a burden.

Another one says the law requires too many resources to be expended by local government, and a third says that it will lose the support, the collaboration of community members who may be here unlawfully. Bottom line, a lot of people in your line of work think that this is actually hurting them, this law.

ARPAIO: It's not a lot of people. It's some chiefs of police bureaucrats that have to report to mayors that have their own agenda against our laws, the immigration laws, illegal immigrations laws. When I talked about 40,000 people that we have contacted or took care of, I think that crime has gone down because of that. 40,000. Where are all of the problems? Why is law enforcement some of them, a very minority of them, don't want to enforce the illegal immigration laws? They took an oath of office to do that. Maybe we should not enforce all of those other federal crimes like bank robberies and so on.

YELLIN: Congressman Grijalva, your reaction to Sheriff Arpaio? REP. RAUL GRIJALVA, (D) ARIZONA: Well, it's not a reaction. It's more of an understanding of how a Democratic process works. The legislature legislated 1070, this law that's being challenged by the justice department, and I think that the challenge is necessary and prudent, and this challenge is based on something that's fundamental in a democracy. That the courts are part of our Democratic process. And, yes, we all took an oath of office. And one of those oath was to uphold the constitution of the United States of America. That's the oath that I took.

And whether you are a supporter of 1070 or an opponent, which I happen to be, I think it is prudent and necessary for us to test the constitutionality of it. And this is what this lawsuit is about, the supremacy clause, the preemption clause that says that this is a federal responsibility. Arizona is at the point of a spear on immigration. It's also the experiment where many things are being tried in the state legislatively and for us and it is a precedent. So, I think the justice department is absolutely correct in challenging this law on its constitutionality.

YELLIN: I'm curious to know what the reaction from your community in Tucson has been to this, to filing?

GRIJALVA: It's been divided. It's been divided. Like this issue has been in Arizona and the rest of the country, it's divisive, and it's been a divided opinion, and it continues to be a divided opinion. But public opinion does not drive a constitutional issue. If that was the case, we'd still be having separate but equal. If that was the case, Native Americans in Arizona would still not be voting. They only happened in 1950. Thanks to a constitutional challenge. So, you know, public opinion has a -- is important, but the protection of the constitution as a balance in this whole process is critical. So, we're in that stage.

YELLIN: All right. I want to continue this conversation, especially talking about some of the crime statistics, Sheriff, you spoke about earlier on the other side of this break.

Also, coming up later in the show, Joe Biden, our vice president says, November might not be so bad for the Democrats.

And, get this, Levi Johnston, remember him? He offers an apology now to the Palins.


YELLIN: Joining me again from phoenix, Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, and in Tucson, Democratic Arizona congressman, Raul Grijalva. Gentlemen, I'd like to ask Sheriff Arpaio about some of the crime statistics you've cited both now and in the past. You talked about the amount of violent crime that's come with illegal immigration. We took a look at some of the statistics from the FBI's violent crime research, and they show that in Arizona, since 1995, the crime rate has actually declined as the rate of illegals coming in has grown. So, the statistics don't seem to support the argument that illegals are bringing more crime. ARPAIO: First of all, the number of people in our jails from 8,000 to 10,000, but 18 percent are there. They have committed murders. We have 55 right now in jail, charged with murder. I can go on and on. 18 percent are illegal aliens. So, you have to say that they do commit crimes. Can I go back to the congressman just one minute, please?


ARPAIO: Congressman, you keep talking about let the courts decide. Why did you ask everybody to boycott Arizona? Why didn't you wait for the courts to come up with the final decision? That wasn't right for our state. And I'm a little disappointed that you had to go out and tell everybody in the country, don't come to Arizona.

YELLIN: You did call for a partial boycott, sir, did you not?

GRIJALVA: No, I asked for economic consequences. When you don't have a political process that is going to respond to an equitable compromise with the issue of immigration in the state of Arizona, when the domination of those politics are not going to allow you that avenue, you have the courts and you have the other avenue which is economic. It's historic. It's been used before. It was used to -- it is kept the Martin Luther King holiday in Arizona, and we asked for sanctions, economic consequences, and they've happened.

And you know, as much I would like to think I'm so powerful, Sheriff, that I said something and the consequences began, the minute that that was signed into law, the consequences began. And the consequences began because there's people all over this country that understand that this law is not only wrong but that it targets people. And so, the consequences that are happening to the state of economics, you, guys, put the chickens in there, and they come to roost, and you should not be blaming anybody but yourself.

ARPAIO: The chickens have been there for three years, and I've been enforcing the other two state laws including the federal immigration laws and been very successful. Just because of this new law, which is almost patterned the other two state laws. Now, we have a problem across our nation and internationally about our state. But 70 percent of the people who want this law, Congressman, you know that. But if you're going to let the courts decide, that's great.

I'm going to tell you one thing, come July 29th, you're not going to like to hear this. I will do my 16th crime suppression operation with volunteer PASI (ph) and deputies, we're not going to change. Law or no law as far as the decision, we're still going to do our job until the courts say otherwise.

YELLIN: And the 29th is the date when this law is intended to go into effect if the court doesn't issue an injunction. Congressman Grijalva, we're having this debate because something isn't working in our immigration system --

GRIJALVA: I agree.

YELLIN: There needs to be reform. Both sides agree. First of all, is President Obama doing enough by filing this lawsuit today?

GRIJALVA: No. No. We need comprehensive immigration reform. We need to look at security. And security has been an issue. I find it interesting that we have no tipping point of when the border is secure. If you leave it to others, it will never be secure. And, therefore, we can't deal with the reality of comprehensive reform in this country. We have more --

YELLIN: And do you and your colleagues bear (ph) some of the responsibility here? I mean, it's up to Congress to pass a law.

GRIJALVA: There's many of us that have been pushing to pass a law, a compromised law. And if you want to point the finger, yes, federal government and congressmen deserve the blame. But, let us see who the obstructionist are in this process. There's an insatiable appetite for not doing anything to exploit this issue, and I would venture to say that many of the same politicians that are right now from Arizona that are federal legislatures, have complaining about this lawsuit are the same politicians that have yet to vote or take an initial step to come to a compromise or to a discussion about what we can do to deal with security, deal with immigration reform. It's a broken system. You can leave it broken and exploit it and that's what's happening right now.

YELLIN: And Sheriff, let me ask you -- I mean, that's a damning statement, that there's an insatiable appetite to do nothing. Will today's action make any difference for you in Arizona?

ARPAIO: Not for me. Not for me. I'm still going to do what we've been doing for three, four years. And nothing is going to change. That's my message. At least from this sheriff.

YELLIN: All right. Sheriff Arpaio and Congressman Grijalva, thanks so much for joining us tonight. This debate will continue for quite some time.

ARPAIO: Thank you.

GRIJALVA: Thank you.


John King, USA

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