In an unexpected move U.S. Congressman Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, blasted Arizona’s new immigration law as a blow to freedom and the ability of Americans to live their lives as they see fit.
“There’s no question that our nation’s immigration policies are in dire straits. We all agree that inaction by both the Bush and the Obama Administrations has compounded this problem and forced states like Arizona to take drastic measures,” wrote Mack, the ranking Republican of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, in a statement released Thursday. “But the new Arizona law strikes a severe blow to freedom and the principles that make our nation strong. This law of ‘frontier justice’ – where law enforcement officials are required to stop anyone based on ‘reasonable suspicion’ that they may be in the country illegally – is reminiscent of a time during World War II when the Gestapo in Germany stopped people on the street and asked for their papers without probable cause. It shouldn’t be against the law to not have proof of citizenship on you.”
Arizona’s Republican governor signed the law Friday. It is viewed as the toughest on illegal immigration in the nation and has drawn criticism from President Barack Obama.
The law makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally and directs police to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they’re illegal immigrants.
Mack said that isn’t what America is supposed to be about.
“I’m all for a strong border. I’m all for interior enforcement. I’m all for E-verify and I’m for a strong stance on immigration,” said Mack from his Washington, D.C. office Thursday. “As Americans, I think we’re better than that (Arizona’s law).”
Steve Hemping, chair of the Collier County Democratic Party, said considering what has happened in the past 24-hours, more and more people are coming out against Arizona’s new law.
“It’s not just Democrats and Independents. It’s also Republicans who live in states like Florida with a huge immigration populations,” said Hemping. “And as people learn more about the law, they are just coming out against it across the board.”
Hemping said that in a state like Florida, such a law would be disastrous.
Nevertheless, he said the uproar may lead to federal immigration reform.
Still, News of Mack’s statement took Brenda Skupny, state committee woman for the Lee County Republican Executive Committee, off guard.
“It surprises me a little bit,” said Skupny adding that Mack has traditionally taken a very pro-state rights stance. “But I can understand how he feels this is overreaching.”
The reactions were to be expected, said Mack.
“We’ve had reactions on both sides. We’ve had people that are extremely supportive and have expressed that to the office, and we’ve had people that were very upset,” he said adding that it comes with the territory.
On Thursday Mark Krikorian, executive director of Washington D.C. based Center for Immigration Studies, said Mack’s statement wasn’t unexpected.
“A lot of politicians have been reacting to the media coverage and to activists’ groups’ reaction to the bill,” said Krikorian.
The problem, Krikorian said is that “a lot of people literally have no idea what they are talking about.”
And the bill is creating discord within the Republican party, Krikorian said.
“The issue of documents does in fact create a division among Republicans, particularly for the more libertarian” said Krikorian. “The more libertarian are more suspicious of anything relating to documents.”
In addition, the bill prohibits ethnic or racial profiling he said.
“There needs to be contact with police for the issue to arise,” said Krikorian.
In the end, Krikorian said both opponents and supporters are exaggerating the reach of the bill.
Yet Arizona’s law could be the only immigration reform the country sees this year.
President Obama noted this week that lawmakers may lack the “appetite” to take on immigration while many of them are up for re-election and while another big legislative issue — climate change — is already on their plate.
“I don’t want us to do something just for the sake of politics that doesn’t solve the problem,” Obama told reporters Wednesday night aboard Air Force One.
Immigration reform was an issue Obama promised Latino groups that he would take up in his first year in office. But several hard realities — a tanked economy, a crowded agenda, election-year politics and lack of political will — led to so much foot-dragging in Congress that, ultimately, Obama decided to set the issue aside.
However some Democrats thought pushing a bill through now might help their party, or at least their own re-election prospects.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose campaign is struggling in heavily Hispanic Nevada, unveiled an outline — not legislation — on Thursday for an immigration bill at a packed news conference. Asked when it might advance, he declined to set an “arbitrary deadline.”
The Democrats’ draft proposal called for, among other things, meeting border security benchmarks before anyone in the country illegally can become a legal permanent U.S. resident.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.