Arizona is a place where you can get a family photograph with Santa holding an AK-47, where state lawmakers point pink pistols at reporters, and where men tote AR-15s to political protests. And if one state representative gets his way, gun-loving Arizonans won’t have to worry about pesky federal gun control laws, because it will be illegal to enforce them.
Republican state Rep. Steve Smith proposed a bill last week that would prohibit public officials in the state from following any federal gun laws or regulations, fearing an effort by the Obama administration to impose harsh new restrictions on firearms. That means no background checks, no restrictions on automatic weapons or grenade launchers, and no prohibition on sale to the mentally ill, unless the state enacts its own restrictions, none of which are laid out in Smith’s bill.
While there is no penalty specified for state and local officials who follow federal law, federal judges or law enforcement agents would face felony charges punishable by up to a year in state prison. “Here’s a line in the sand: Thanks, but no thanks. Stay out with your federal regulations you’re going to impose on us,” Smith said.
HB 2291 would almost certainly be unconstitutional, as federal law trumps state law, and Smith acknowledged that there would probably be legal challenges that would have to be worked out in the courts. But he appears to be trying to get around this problem by making his legislation apply only to firearms that are manufactured in and never leave the state of Arizona, presumably in an attempt to thwart the Commerce Clause, which allows Congress to regulate interstate trade. Still, the Supreme Court has not been sympathetic to similar arguments.
And the Constitution isn’t Smith’s only problem; he’s catching some friendly fire too. Todd Rathner, an Arizona resident who sits on the board of the National Rifle Association, told the Capitol News Service that he doesn’t like the bill because of what it would do to gun dealers, who must receive federal licenses and comply with federal regulations.
“I worry about putting federal firearms licensees in the middle of a fight between us and the federal government,” he said. “It puts them between a rock and a hard place because they worry about committing a federal crime or a state crime.”
Indeed, Smith’s law specifies that firearms dealers would be barred from following the regulations mandated by the federal government to maintain their license. Still, Rathner said of Smith’s proposal, “I like the message he’s trying to send.”
Arizona isn’t the only state considering what amounts to a lite form of secession over guns. In Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant and state House Speaker Philip Gunn have both said they intend to block any new Obama executive orders on gun control. South Carolina lawmakers have made similar moves as well. But Arizona’s law goes much further, by not only restricting new regulations but also all existing ones, targeting “any act, law, statute, rule or regulation” from Washington on guns.
Also, keep in mind that the NRA’s objection to the legislation is not that it is unconstitutional or that it might make it easier for criminals to acquire weapons, but that it would hurt firearms dealers. If Smith rewrote the law to exempt dealers, one wonders if the NRA would be OK with the rest of it.
By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, January 23, 2013
Arizona’s frustration with our nation’s dysfunctional immigration system is understandable. But its restrictive “show me your papers” immigration law is unconstitutional and un-American.
The U.S. Constitution protects and safeguards our most fundamental rights—the rights that are the bedrock of our freedom and democracy. Each of us has the right to be treated equally and fairly, and to not be discriminated against on the basis of the color of our skin or the accent with which we may speak.
Arizona’s law violates these precious Constitutional protections. Already, in Arizona and other states with “show me your papers” laws, U.S. citizens who don’t happen to carry proof of their birth in the United States in their back pockets are being treated with suspicion and are facing arrest and detention until they can convince law enforcement authorities of their citizenship. This racial profiling and assault on personal freedom and security is both unconstitutional and un-American.
The U.S. Constitution was also written to safeguard and protect our fundamental character as a nation of united states. In areas where it is important for states to determine their own policies, the Constitution protects states’ rights. But in areas where it is important that our nation speak with one voice, the Constitution prohibits states from taking matters into their own hands.
Immigration is one of those areas involving our country’s relations with foreign countries and nationals where our nation needs to speak with one voice. Just as states cannot sign their own treaties with, or declare war on, other countries, so too states cannot enact their own immigration laws. If they could, the resulting patchwork of 50 different state laws would lead to confusion, conflict, and chaos.
Other nations would retaliate and treat U.S. citizens unfairly as they travel, work and study abroad. Citizens and immigrants alike would flee from one state to another, seeking freedom from discriminatory laws. Businesses would leave states where their workers and visiting foreign managers were subject to intrusive police demands for “papers.”
The United States could not survive as two nations—one slave, one free. Neither can the United States accommodate two sets of immigration laws—one that requires the Department of Homeland Security to enforce the laws that Congress enacts, and the other that requires all of us, citizens and immigrants alike, to “show me your papers.”
By: Jeanne Butterfield, Special Counsel, Raben Group, Published in U. S. News and World Report, April 23, 2012
Arizona’s county sherriff’s are not exactly known for setting the standard for effective law enforcement and loyalty to the Constitution — indeed, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is currently under federal investigation for widespread mistreatment of Latinos and other violations of the law. Nevertheless, an Arizona senate committee just approved a unconstitutional billwhich would require federal law enforcement officers to provide advance notice to Arpaio and his fellow sheriffs before taking action in their counties:
A Senate panel voted Thursday to fire a warning shot of sorts over the heads of federal law enforcement agencies: Don’t come around here unless you get local OK.
The legislation, crafted by Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, would require employees of those agencies to first notify the sheriff of the county “before taking any official law enforcement action in a county in this state.”
The only exception would be if the notification would impede the federal officer’s duties. But even then, HB 2434 has a requirement to notify the sheriff “as soon as practicable after taking the action.”
The Constitution simply does not allow states to order federal officials to do anything. Under our Constitution, federal law is “the supreme law of the land,” so when Congress enacts an otherwise valid federal law and empowers federal officers to enforce it, the states have no power whatsoever to limit that enforcement or place conditions on it.
Disturbingly, the bill may also be connected to a radical anti-government group known as the “Oath Keepers.” The Oath Keepers is a right-wing group that pushes local law enforcement to pledge to defy federal “orders” the Oath Keepers believe are unconstitutional. Their website is riddled with paranoid rhetoric about government officials “disarm[ing] the American people,” “confiscat[ing] the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies,” and “blockad[ing] American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.” In early 2008, the Oath Keepers’ founder warned that a “dominatrix-in-chief” named “Hitlery Clinton” would impose a police state on America and shoot all resisters. After Democratic primary voters chose President Obama over Clinton, the Oath Keepers simply rewrote their paranoid fantasy to include a taller, African-American lead. Rep. Gowan, the lead sponsor of this bill, is listed as a member of the Tucson Oath Keepers on their Meetup page.
So, while merely notifying local law enforcement of federal actions may seem like a minor imposition, the bill makes sense in the context of a broader Oath Keeper agenda, because it gives local sherriffs advance notice of which federal actions they wish to defy.
By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, March 16, 2012
Gov. Jan Brewer is pushing a radical anti-union bill that makes Wisconsin’s law look lax.
Not content to let Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich get all the fame (and recall elections, and ballot referenda) for their attempts to curtail union workers’ rights, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators have jumped into the fray and proposed their own anti-union bills in recent weeks.
Along with South Carolina’s Nikki Haley and Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, Arizona’s Jan Brewer, not content with making her state the least friendly to immigrants and people of color, has decided to get in on the union-busting action as well, introducing a bill that makes Walker’s and Kasich’s attacks on public workers look mild.
Brewer, the Republican left in charge of the state after President Obama tapped Janet Napolitano to be his secretary of Homeland Security, has been planning anti-union moves since last spring with the backing of the Goldwater Institute. (Named for Barry Goldwater, the think tank pushes for “freedom” and “prosperity” — as long as it’s not the freedom or prosperity of state workers.)
It’s not just Arizona’s right-wingers who are pushing Brewer to beat up on unions – John Nichols at the Nation notes that Walker may have had a hand in helping push an anti-labor agenda, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is involved. In a speech to the right-wing policy shop behind many of these anti-union bills last year, Brewer complained about her inability to fire government employees and supervisors’ difficulty “disciplining” workers.
This week, the Republicans in the state Legislature introduced moves that would make collective bargaining for public workers completely illegal. Here, we break down what you need to know about Brewer and the GOP’s anti-worker agenda.
1. The bill would go further than Wisconsin’s, making collective bargaining completely illegal for government workers.
SB 1485, the first of the bills to take on union rights, declares that no state agency can recognize any union as a bargaining agent for any public officer or worker, collectively bargain with any union, or meet and confer with any union for the purpose of discussing bargaining.
While Wisconsin’s law bans public employees from bargaining over everything but very small wage increases, Arizona’s bill bans collective bargaining outright and refuses to recognize any union as a bargaining unit. Existing contracts with unions will be honored, but not be renewed if this bill passes.
2. Arizona includes police and firefighters in its ban.
Scott Walker famously exempted public safety workers — police officers and firefighters — from his attacks on union workers, but many of them joined the protests anyway. In Ohio, John Kasich’s bill, overturned by his constituents this past November, included the police and firefighters in its elimination of bargaining rights. Now Brewer and her legislative compatriots have decided that police and firefighters should lose their bargaining rights as well.
Arizona, as Dave Dayen at FireDogLake noted, “is changing to a purple state because of an extreme legislature which first demonized immigrants, in what could start a backlash among the Hispanic community. Now, flush with that success, the legislature will demonize police and firefighters. It’s not exactly a textbook strategy for a lasting majority.”
Walker’s attempt to divide and conquer public sector unions by attacking some and not others didn’t work; perhaps that’s why later attempts at similar bills didn’t bother giving special treatment to public safety workers. But as we saw in Ohio, the support of the traditionally conservative police and firefighters’ unions helped unite the state’s voters and bring out record numbers to vote down the bill. Arizona seems to be asking for trouble by targeting police and firefighters with this bill.
3. The state would ban government employers from deducting union dues automatically from a worker’s paycheck.
Not content with banning bargaining, the Arizona legislature is also out to make sure unions can’t collect any money for the work they do. SB 1487 inserts language into existing law that says “This state and any county, municipality, school district or other political subdivision of this state may not withhold or divert any portion of an employee’s wages to pay for labor organization dues.”
This move obviously is aimed to hit unions right in their wallets — taking away the funding they need in order to do more organizing, and carry out political activity.
4. Arizona would ban the government from allowing employees to do union work on company time.
Laura Clawson at Daily Kos notes that in addition to the other measures, Arizona’s Republicans also want to eliminate “release time,” a practice “in which union stewards and other representatives are allowed to spend work time on certain union functions, such as contract negotiations or handling grievances.”
Union stewards and representatives are full-time employees who take on additional responsibilities on top of their jobs—a move like this makes it harder for them to carry out those responsibilities to their fellow workers without fear of facing sanctions from their bosses. Specifically banned by the bill, SB 1486, are “activities that are performed by a union, union members or representatives that relate to advocating the interests of member employees in wages, benefits, terms and conditions of employment.”
5. Brewer also wants to eliminate any job protections for workers, buying them off with pay raises.
Brewer plans to offer public workers their first pay raise in years, a 5 percent increase. The tradeoff? They have to opt out of job protections some of them currently enjoy, including the right to appeal demotions and protection from being fired without cause – they have to become at-will employees.
Like most “merit pay” arrangements, this one sounds good at first — hard-working people will get raises! — but workers see right through it. Odalys Hinds, who works in the state health lab, told the Arizona Republic, “No way will I do it. I won’t take it — it basically would take away our rights. My retirement’s gone up. My insurance has gone up. There’s going to come a day when I’m going to have to pay the state to work.”
6. Arizona is already a “right-to-work” state
The kicker to all this? Arizona workers already enjoy fewer protections than those in Ohio and Wisconsin. Arizona is a so-called right-to-work state, where unions cannot collect a fair share of the direct costs of representation from workers who opt out of joining the union — even though the union is compelled to represent all workers.
This means that unlike the Midwestern states, Arizona has few union members already and that means there are fewer people who are likely to be outraged and moved to protest by attacks on collective bargaining. Yet Brewer, the Goldwater Institute and the Republicans in the Legislature aren’t content with what they have and are moving to make public sector unions all but irrelevant, by making it nearly impossible for them to do their jobs.
Arizona now has a strong Republican majority in the Legislature, and so barring a change of heart by a handful of GOPers, the anti-union measures are likely to pass. But if Brewer continues to antagonize working people in her state, John Nichols notes, Arizona does have something else in common with Wisconsin — provisions that allow for the recall of the governor and state legislators, provisions that were used just last year to remove Russell Pearce, the state senator responsible for the state’s hideous anti-immigrant law, from office.
Newt Gingrich’s repugnant position on immigration should not be concealed by his faint use of the word “humane” during last week’s GOP primary debate. The mere fact his remarks are deemed compassionate is further proof Republican discourse on immigration continues to dangerously metastasize.
Watch this video of a primary debate between Ronald Reagan and George Bush, and it’s clear how unrestrained the current Republican field is in its immigrant bashing. Mitt Romney abandoned his support of immigration reform and now opposes equal education for immigrant children. Herman Cain proposes electrifying the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. And Rick Perry boasts of receiving an endorsement from a sheriff who recently said it was an honor to have his views on immigration compared to those of the KKK. Within this environment, we may be tempted to see Gingrich as a moderate. However, his statement of the obvious—that the United States cannot and will not deport all undocumented immigrants—was a cold political calculation meant to highlight Romney’s flip-flop and to disguise his own regressive views.
Simply put, Gingrich supports the Arizonification of America. He has embraced the very “attrition strategy” codified into the core of Arizona’s unconstitutional SB 1070. The idea behind this strategy is to make life sufficiently miserable for immigrants that they leave voluntarily. It doesn’t distinguish between lawful and undocumented immigrants, and it privileges the short-term political goal of immigrant-bashing over economic recovery, public safety, and civil rights. And it has a more fundamental flaw. To succeed, the attrition strategy would mean making life miserable for all Americans.
And like the rest of his Republican rivals, Gingrich would deny political equality to 11 million Americans in Waiting by blocking their path to citizenship. He proposes the formation of local “citizens’ review” boards to determine which immigrants can remain in second-class status, evoking ominous historical parallels. When 11 million people have been effectively dehumanized, simply using the word “humane” to describe them becomes controversial.
The United States is going through a shameful chapter in its unfolding history as the world’s first and only nation of immigrants. This isn’t the first time newcomers have been scapegoated, nor is it the first time communities of color have been punished by prevailing political sentiment. From the Chinese Exclusion Act, to Eisenhower’s “Operation Wetback,” to the criminalization of African-Americans over centuries, the American story is replete with examples where people were made “illegal” by unjust laws and careless demagogues. But the country’s proudest and enduring history is always written by people who earned their emancipation. People once deemed “illegal” are often the country’s greatest protagonists.
Gingrich is wrong on immigration, and the 11 million Americans in Waiting are right. Those who stick it out and overcome the mistreatment Gingrich proposes will eventually earn their citizenship to the benefit of us all.
By: Chris Newman, U. S. News and World Report, November 30, 2011