The Arizona immigration bill that U.S. Rep. Connie Mack called “a blow to freedom” was softened a bit last week.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton blocked some of the most controversial parts of the law Wednesday, and Mack, R-Fort Myers, spoke in favor of parts of the judge’s decision — in particular her decision to block the law’s provision requiring officers to check the immigration status of a person who is stopped by police if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is undocumented.
Mack called that part of the law “obnoxious,” and said that it put some Americans’ freedoms in jeopardy.
“Overall, I think this is a win for freedom if you believe that freedom exists for every American regardless of what you look like,” Mack said. “I think, if she had not struck down the parts that she struck down, some Americans who don’t look like me would have their freedoms trampled on in Arizona, as compared to other Americans who may look like me.”
He disagreed with the judge’s decision to block the provision that would make it illegal for undocumented workers to look for jobs.
“I believe that to get a job in the United States you must be documented,” he said.
The law still took effect Thursday, without four provisions the judge blocked. The other two blocked provisions would have created a crime for the failure to apply for or carry alien registration papers and authorized the warrantless arrest of a person where there is probable cause to believe they have committed a public offense that makes them removable from the country.
The provisions are blocked until the court makes a decision about the case brought by the United States government arguing that the law is unconstitutional. In the case, the federal government argues that it has exclusive power to regulate immigration, and so federal immigration law overrides state laws.
Reactions to Mack’s position from constituents have been mixed, he said.
“I think it’s partly because when people talk now about the Arizona law, they equate the Arizona law with illegal immigration,” he said. “... Many believe that if you’re against the Arizona law you’re for illegal immigration and that’s just not the case.”
As for fellow members of the GOP, most people haven’t said much about his stance, Mack said.
“Some have said good job or that’s a courageous stance, others have said ‘Help me understand this, am I reading the law wrong?’” he said.
Frank Schwerin, chairman of the Collier County Republican Executive Committee, said that most of the group’s members don’t agree with the congressman’s position on the Arizona law. People feel that something must be done about illegal immigration and that the federal government doesn’t recognize the problem, he said.
Schwerin said the committee’s members feel “a lot of sympathy with the frustration that the people in Arizona must be feeling. It’s probably 10 times worse in Arizona, but it’s a problem here in Collier County, too: Undocumented immigrants committing crimes, crashing cars, DUIs. Just pick up the paper any day. It’s apparent when you look at the mugshots in the Naples Daily News.”