Tucson, Flagstaff Will Sue Over SB 1070: “We’re Not Pearce’s Backyard”

By Julianne Hing May 05, 2010

Last night in separate city council meetings, both city councils of Tucson and Flagstaff, Arizona, voted to bring lawsuits against the state of Arizona over SB 1070, the law that would require that law enforcement investigate people’s immigration status while enforcing civil, local and state law. Both municipalities cited concerns over the loss of business from other states that are boycotting the state since SB 1070 was signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer two weeks ago. The towns want to file an injunction to stop the bill from going into effect as planned in July. City officials in Tucson spoke about the fear of losing an expensive contract the city has with a Portland, Oregon company that is supposed to manufacture streetcars for Tucson. Others are unhappy that the state law will usurp local law enforcement’s power. Flagstaff police spoke about the negative effect SB 1070 will have on police-community relations, and the fact that SB 1070 will not help fight the drug-related border crime it purports to. "It has been our experience that those individuals that we come into contact within the course of our duties who are determined to be in this country illegally are law-abiding persons and non-violent," said Flagstaff Lt. Ken Koch. Tucson councilperson Karin Uhlich issued her own statement, saying: "Beyond the very compelling concerns about whether it would violate the U.S. Constitution and undermine civil rights, the legislation represents state interference with local control over our own police department." "SB1070 fails to protect the rights of our citizens, puts our police officers at unnecessary risk and is already damaging our economy," the town’s mayoral spokesperson said in a release. Flagstaff’s city council voted unanimously to begin legal action against the state. Tucson’s city council passed it 5-1. The one dissenting voice, a councilperson named Steve Kozachik said that even tough he opposes SB 1070, he is worried about the high price tag of the lawsuits for the already cash-strapped city. Tucson city councilperson Paul Cunningham said: "I understand Councilman Kozachik’s concerns about cost. But we need to let the people know that all of Arizona isn’t [SB 1070 author] Russell Pearce’s backyard." Meanwhile, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, an outspoken critic of SB 1070 who promised legal action against SB 1070 if it became law, will not be able to proceed with his own case because his city council opposes taking such action. Phoenix’s City Attorney Gary Verburg said that only a city council, and not a mayor acting alone, has the power to sue on behalf of his city. Last week, the ACLU, MALDEF and the National Immigration Law Center announced a joint lawsuit against the state of Arizona. [Update 9:22pm EST] Boston’s city council voted Wednesday to boycott Arizona. The city council has urged the city to sever economic ties with the state as long as SB 1070 is on the books.