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February 3, 2015

House Judiciary Committee Extends Invitation To Sheriff Paul Babeu

The House Judiciary Committee, which held a meeting on February 3 on the enforcement of immigration laws in the U.S., invited Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Arizona to testify. Babeu is known for his anti-immigrant views and claimed that many of the undocumented immigrants crossing the border have criminal backgrounds. Babeu is a controversial figure.

Sheriff Paul Babeu

Sheriff Paul Babeu

In the summer of 2014, when there was a surge of children fleeing to the United States across the Mexican border, Babeu reportedly leaked details of where some of those children would be bused in Oracle, Arizona, to receive social services. This led to chaos when about 80 anti-immigrant activists confronted school buses filled with children in the town and tried to halt the buses. Some held signs that said, “Return to Sender.” It turned out, however, that the school buses were filled with local children heading to YMCA camp. Local media chastised Babeu for stirring up trouble in the town. In response, he said that he was just informing the public.

Babeu has courted controversy on other occasions too. In 2012, when five bodies were found in a burned-out SUV in Pinal County, he declared that the deaths appeared to be related to a drug cartel. Later on, authorities learned that the incident was actually a murder-suicide of a family from Phoenix and unrelated to drugs.

In addition, Babeu has appeared on extremist shows. In July 2010, he was a guest on “The Political Cesspool,” a white supremacist show, where Babeu talked about immigration and bemoaned what he referred to as the invasion of Arizona. After Babeu’s appearance on the show became public, he claimed he did not know about the show’s politics.

According to media reports, he also appeared on Alex Jones’ radio show. Jones is one of the most prominent conspiracy theorist in the United States, and has been responsible for spreading and popularizing a wide variety of conspiracies, the majority espousing some form of anti-government viewpoint. Babeu reportedly spoke about an incident in which his deputy was allegedly shot by members of a Mexican drug cartel. Although Babeu exploited the deputy’s story to justify Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant bill, SB 1070, the deputy was later fired for allegedly making false statements about the incident.

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March 7, 2014

Anti-Immigrant Movement Dealt Three Major Blows In One Day

Earlier this week, two U.S. Supreme Court orders and a settlement agreement out of South Carolina dealt major blows to the anti-immigrant movement’s agenda.supreme-court-east-facade

On March 3, the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals by the cities of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and Farmers Branch, Texas, letting stand lower court rulings that had struck down both cities’ anti-immigrant ordinances.  Hazleton and Farmers Branch gained national notoriety when they passed ordinances barring undocumented immigrants from renting property in the towns. 

In both cases, lower courts struck down the ordinances as unconstitutional and preempted by federal law.  The Supreme Court’s orders denying the appeals requests end the legal battles, which have been ongoing since 2006, and secure a permanent victory for immigration and civil rights groups. 

On the same day as the Supreme Court’s orders, South Carolina officials settled a lawsuit with immigrant and civil rights groups over the state’s anti-immigrant laws.  In 2011 South Carolina passed a law similar to Arizona’s SB 1070 that, among other things, required local law enforcement to investigate people’s immigration status if they had reason to believe the person was undocumented. 

The provision, commonly known as “papers please,” effectively required local law enforcement officers to function as immigration enforcers.  In a letter submitted to the court signed jointly by the Attorney General and the Solicitor General, earlier this week South Carolina agreed that local law enforcement would not hold people purely to determine immigration status.  The letter further conceded that the law does not permit state and local officials to arrest or hold anyone believed to be undocumented “for any purpose, even to transfer the individual to federal custody.”

The Supreme Court orders and South Carolina settlement are major defeats for the anti-immigrant movement and its “attrition through enforcement” agenda. In the early to mid-2000s, the movement crafted this agenda, also known as “self-deportation.”

The goal was to make life so difficult for immigrants that they would “self-deport” from the city or state and move to another, or ultimately back to their country of origin.  Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and a lawyer with the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of the extreme anti-immigrant organization Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), is the mastermind behind attrition through enforcement and one of the leaders promoting the agenda today. Kobach helped to draft and defend the ordinances in Farmers Branch, Hazelton, and many other cities as well as Arizona’s SB 1070 law.

The Supreme Court orders and South Carolina settlement are part of a wider trend of defeat for the anti-immigrant movement.   Since the beginning of 2013 there has been a major decline in anti-immigrant legislation introduced at the state level nationwide. Pro-immigrant legislation is on the rise and the anti-immigrant movement is on the defense, attempting to stop this influx of legislation instead of continuing to draft “attrition through enforcement” bills. These latest developments send a clear message to the anti-immigrant movement and state and local legislators that anti-immigrant legislation not only divides communities but it does not hold up in court.

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March 3, 2014

The Arizona Effect

Josh Deinert

AP Photo/Matt York

Last week Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the State’s now infamous “religious freedom” bill. 

The clear intent of the SB 1062 was to effectively allow persons and businesses to discriminate against the State’s LGBT community by providing a powerful legal defense based on assertion of a “sincerely held religious belief.” 

Due to its expansive nature, however, the legislation would have broadly sanctioned religious-based discrimination whether the victim was Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Hindu or of no faith.   And the Anti-Defamation took a leadership role in defeating this discriminatory legislation.

Governor Brewer ultimately vetoed SB 1062 under fierce pressure from the State’s civil rights and business communities.

But what happens in Arizona does not stay in Arizona.  Prior to Governor Brewer’s veto, at least twelve other states, including Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio and Oklahoma, were actively considering similar legislation.  Due to the backlash against SB 1062, however, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, and Oklahoma tabled their bills.  So the new talking point in opposing such legislation should be “follow the lead of the Arizona legislature at your peril.”

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