Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has staked her political career on the anti-immigrant law SB1070, and by all accounts, it’s already paved her way to election. Last week Brewer won her gubernatorial primary handily against two other Republican challengers whose names most election watchers could barely be bothered to remember. And today, the Tucson Sentinel reports that Brewer leads her Democratic challenger, Arizona attorney general Terry Goddard, by 19 points.
Last week, Brewer also filed her state’s opening brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the courts are hearing the federal government’s legal challenge against SB 1070. The federal government maintains that it alone has the power to create and enforce immigration law, while Arizona says that it is not overstepping its legal rights to create a new class of crimes that target immigrants in the state.
And, in a sign of Brewer’s sure-footedness, last Friday the AP reported that Brewer decided to take on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The State Department included its lawsuit against Arizona in a greatest hits list of ways the United States is protecting human rights.
Brewer wants mention of the DOJ’s lawsuit against SB1070 taken out of the report, which will be sent to the United Nations Human Rights Council. "The idea of our own American government submitting the duly enacted laws of a state of the United States to ‘review’ by the United Nations is internationalism run amok and unconstitutional," Brewer wrote in her letter to Clinton.
Last week, one of the seven legal challenges to SB1070 was thrown out of court. Some have the dismissal a victory, but it was the weakest of the seven lawsuits to be let go. Washington, D.C. researcher Roberto Frisancho charged that he would be racially profiled if he went to the state later this year; he filed his lawsuit just four days after SB1070 became law, and was representing himself. Six other lawsuits, including one from a coalition of civil and immigrant rights groups, continue to plug along.
And that seems just fine to Arizonans. According to the Tucson Sentinel poll, 65 percent of Arizonans approve of the job Brewer’s doing in the state, up from a 41 percent approval rating in her pre-SB1070 days. When Brewer signed SB 1070 into law on April 23, she catapulted her state, and personal brand, onto the national political scene. Since then she has been criss-crossing the country parroting anti-immigrant rhetoric and spreading falsehoods about her own state.
The original language of SB1070 made it a state crime to be undocumented in Arizona. The law allowed police officers to pull over and question anyone they thought might be in the state without papers, which many civil rights advocates said would surely lead to racial profiling. Since then, the state has been sued by seven different parties, including the federal government. And even though portions of the law were enjoined by a federal judge this summer, the rest of the law which strengthened employer sanctions and included strict punishments for day laborers, went into effect.
"If the federal government secured the entire border and enforced our immigration laws, these human rights problems would not be occurring for citizens, legal residents and illegal immigrants," Brewer wrote to Clinton. But Brewer confuses the point; SB 1070 is neither an attempt at a solution to the country’s immigration impasse, nor a stopgap. The federal government doesn’t need Arizona’s help cracking down on immigrants; it does that fine all on its own. SB1070 is a straight-up attack on immigrants and people of color, a demagogue’s answer to a national immigration system in serious need of overhaul.
Don’t expect Brewer to connect the dots anytime soon though, so long as xenophobia remains a reliable rallying cry for her election campaign.