Sen. Chuck Schumer Invites Gov. Jan Brewer to Defend Arizona Immigration Law

  @DanRivoli on February 23 2012 6:15 PM
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY.
Sen. Chuck Schumer says gang of eight could reach consensus on immigration reform by week's end Reuters

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, invited Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to Washington Thursday to explain the rationale for her state's draconian anti-immigration law.

In a letter to Brewer Thursday, New York's Schumer asked her to testify before his Senate subcommittee on immigration and border security on Arizona's SB1070, the first in a spate of laws that aim to make life inhospitable to undocumented residents.

Schumer questioned Brewer, a Republican, on the need for such measures when the Senate passed a law doling out $600 million for more agents on the Mexican border and Southern ports, plus allocating funds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigations.

This legislation has achieved dramatic results at the border, Schumer wrote. Given the new level of security at our southern border as result of the August 2010 law, it would be extremely beneficial for the committee to hear from you with regard to: 1) why you signed SB 1070 in 2010; 2) whether you still believe SB 1070 is necessary in light of the substantially increased security situation along our southern border.

To ensure a blockbuster hearing, should Brewer accept, Schumer's scheduled committee meeting for April 24, the day before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments from Arizona on whether federal immigration law should override the state's own enforcement measures.

The Arizona law allows local law enforcement to determine the immigration status of anyone detained or arrested; authorizes warrantless arrests of undocumented residents who commit a public offense; prohibits undocumented immigrants from seeking and accepting work; and requires immigrants to carry proof of legal residency.

Here is the full text of Schumer's letter:

February 23, 2012

The Honorable Jan BrewerGovernor of Arizona1700 West WashingtonPhoenix, Arizona 85007

Dear Governor Brewer:

As Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, I am responsible for directing the Senate's immigration reform efforts and for conducting oversight of the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to secure our borders and ports of entry.

In this capacity, I write to invite you to testify at a hearing on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 entitled Examining the Constitutionality and Prudence of State and Local Governments Enforcing Immigration Law. At this hearing, we will be examining whether it is both constitutional and sound public policy for states to enact broad laws, such as SB 1070 in Arizona, that are designed to deter and punish illegal immigration. It will be held the day before the Supreme Court's Oral Argument in State of Arizona et al., v. The United States of America to make it easier for you to attend the hearing in the event you will already be travelling to Washington, D.C. to attend the oral argument.

You recently were quoted as saying that SB 1070 was Arizona's way of saying that we won't wait patiently for federal action any longer. If the federal government won't enforce its immigration laws, we will.

As you likely know, in August 2010, I wrote and passed The Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act. This act provided over $600 million of reinforcements for border security. The funds were used to hire 1,000 new Border Patrol agents to permanently patrol our southern border and 250 new agents for our ports of entry. It created a strike force that can be deployed in different areas of the southwest border depending on where the need is greatest at any particular moment. It provided funds to deploy unmanned drones to fly along our southern border and provide our patrol officers on the ground with real-time information on unlawful border crossings. The bill also provided funds to: improve communications capabilities between federal border enforcement and state and local officers along the border; construct forward operating bases for the border patrol to use that are actually located on the border itself rather than hundreds of miles away; give Immigration and Customs Enforcement resources to conduct investigations of drug-runners, money-launderers, and human traffickers along our border; and increase the number of federal agents on our border and bolster the number of prosecutors and court resources along our border so that wrongdoers can immediately be brought to justice.

This legislation has achieved dramatic results at the border. The Border Patrol is better staffed today than at any time in its 87-year history, having doubled the number of agents from approximately 10,000 in 2004 under President Bush to more than 21,300 today. Nationwide Border Patrol apprehensions of illegal immigrants decreased from nearly 724,000 in FY 2008 to approximately 340,000 in FY 2011, a 53 percent reduction, indicating that far fewer people are attempting to illegally cross the border. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security matched the decreases in apprehensions with increases in the seizure of illegal currency, drugs, and weapons along the Southwest border. Since this bill was passed, DHS has seized 74 percent more currency, 41 percent more drugs, and 159 percent more weapons along the Southwest border as compared to prior years. And, over the same period, ICE made over 30,936 criminal arrests along the Southwest border, 19,563 of these arrests were of drug smugglers and 4,151 of these arrests were of human smugglers.

Given the new level of security at our Southern Border as result of the August 2010 law, it would be extremely beneficial for the Committee to hear from you with regard to: 1) why you signed SB 1070 in 2010; 2) whether you still believe SB 1070 is necessary in light of the substantially increased security situation along our southern border; and 3) whether you favor SB 1070 being made a permanent law irrespective of whether conditions further improve along the southern border. We would also appreciate any other insight you can provide regarding the legality and prudence of enacting state immigration laws. As you frequently ask the President to visit the southern border to discuss border security, we expect that you will be eager to engage in a productive dialogue with the Congressional Committee responsible for acting upon any border security recommendations you provide.

I thank you for your attention to this important matter, and hope to be able to see you at our hearing to discuss how best to protect the people of Arizona and the United States in a manner that is legal, effective, and in accordance with America's finest values and traditions.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

Chairman

Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Refugees

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