Supporters Explain Why Arizona Needs Tough Immigration Law There has been widespread outrage to Arizona's immigration law, but polls show the law is popular around the country and especially in the state. According to bill co-sponsor John Kavanagh, much of the backlash is from people who haven't read it.
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Supporters Explain Why Arizona Needs Tough Law

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Supporters Explain Why Arizona Needs Tough Law

Supporters Explain Why Arizona Needs Tough Law

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

And to Arizona now and its controversial Immigration Law SB 1070. It requires local police and sheriff's deputies to ask for proof of residency if they suspect someone is in the country illegally. The law has inspired boycotts, lawsuits and protest marches.

Unidentified Group #1: Si se puede. Si se puede. Si se puede.

NORRIS: But polls show a majority of voters support the law. In Arizona itself, it's a wide majority. Except that supporters have been far less vocal than opponents.

So NPR's Ted Robbins set out to find them.

TED ROBBINS: The best shot at finding people willing to speak up for SB 1070...

(Soundbite of radio talk show ad)

Unidentified Man: Sean Hannity, today at one. Barry Young, now on NewsTalk 550 KFYI.

ROBBINS: ...probably AM talk radio in Phoenix.

Mr. BARRY YOUNG (Radio Talk Show Host): For those of you just joining us, KFYI, a gentleman named Ted Robbins is sitting over in - just right next to us, from National Public Radio.

ROBBINS: KFYI morning host Barry Young and co-host Michelle Larson invited me into their studio to listen. Or as Barry Young put it...

Mr. YOUNG: So what the heck with it? What's going on with these people in Arizona?

ROBBINS: Well, Ben in Phoenix thinks illegal immigrants are a drag on society in the U.S.

BEN: They're not here to be American citizens. They're here to take what we have and be Mexican citizens. That's why you see the Mexican flags waving at the protests.

ROBBINS: Norm in Phoenix thinks the new law is a way to fight liberals and/or Democrats.

NORM: And I really applaud the conservative Republican movement for pushing back and forcing the federal government to address this, because it's - I think it's part of their larger plan to, you know, get 10 to 12 million automatic Democrat voters if they can just allow the law to be ignored and immigration to continue as it is and offer amnesty.

ROBBINS: And David, also from Phoenix, thinks the whole immigration system is busted, but only Arizona is doing something about it.

DAVID: You know, it shouldn't take 15 years to become a legal citizen of the United States. But my goodness, we're doing what we can and we don't have many options. What else are we supposed to do? I mean, we have to do something about this.

ROBBINS: All right.

Mr. YOUNG: Yes, this is the point. So, Ted, what you're hearing it's another call of frustration.

ROBBINS: Frustration because supporters perceive illegal immigrants are taking jobs, committing crimes and using government services.

Radio hosts Barry Young and Michelle Larson.

Mr. YOUNG: Everything is out there: frustrated people, angry people, thoughtful people, people who have been wanting - I think you heard some of these calls today - something's better than nothing people. Just for God's sake, do something.

Ms. MICHELLE LARSON (Radio Talk Show Host): I may disagree with you, Barry, just a little bit. I think there's very little frustration on the side of people who either supported or have now looked over the bill. There's no frustration. They're calmly going about their business saying this is a good idea.

ROBBINS: Of course, ever since Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the law last month, there's been a fierce backlash from opponents.

Unidentified Group #2: Stop 1070, you're hurting my state.

ROBBINS: John Kavanagh expected the protests and marches like this one at the State Capitol, but the Republican state representative who co-sponsored the bill didn't expect such widespread outrage. He thinks much of the backlash is from people who haven't read the bill.

Representative JOHN KAVANAGH (Arizona, Republican): Yeah. I mean, people think that cops can now literally stop and question Hispanic people for virtually no reason, because that's how it has been misreported.

ROBBINS: Kavanagh says police have to ask about immigration status only if someone is stopped for another reason. Kavanagh is a former cop from New York and a criminal justice instructor at Scottsdale Community College. He also says the law does not promote racial profiling, though it is likely to target Hispanics because they make up almost a third of Arizona's population.

Rep. KAVANAGH: There's no way you're going to do any kind of immigration-related enforcement where you're relying on reasonable suspicion in Arizona and not have a disproportionately large number of Hispanics, because we just don't have Norwegians and Chinese rolling across the border. So I don't think that's racial profiling. That's just geography.

ROBBINS: It was federal policy, not just geography, which pushed illegal immigrants into crossing Arizona's border and creating current attitudes toward illegal immigrants. Kavanagh's hope for the new law is not that it results in a bunch of arrests, but that it makes Arizona such an inhospitable place for illegal immigrants that they go somewhere else.

Ted Robbins, NPR News.

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