Arizona law not about immigration, but about safety for residents, Bradford says

Rep. Laura Bradford

Ray Scott

It isn’t about immigration, it’s about border security, Rep. Laura Bradford said.

In a briefing Thursday about her recent trip to Arizona with other Colorado legislators, the Collbran Republican said that state’s controversial new law on immigration isn’t just about keeping illegal immigrants out of the United States.

It’s about keeping Arizonans safe from the “coyotes” who smuggle illegal immigrants into the country, and the drug cartels who force those immigrants to carry marijuana for them over the border, she said.

“The main purpose was to go down and find out what (the new law) is in detail,” Bradford told members of the Western Slope Conservative Alliance on Thursday. “(Arizona) is very obviously being invaded by a foreign country.”

Bradford and Ray Scott, the Republican who is unchallenged in November in his bid to be the representative from House District 54, joined a handful of other Colorado legislators on a trip to Phoenix to meet with their Arizona counterparts to discuss that state’s immigration law.

That law, which is being challenged in court by the federal government, calls on Arizona’s law enforcement officers to check the residency status of anyone suspected of being in the United States illegally. Colorado has a similar law, but police here are limited to checking that status after a suspect has been arrested on other charges.

The Colorado lawmakers also traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border to meet with members of a minuteman group, view fence-building along the border and talk about the immigration problem with officials from the Arizona State Patrol and the U.S. Border Patrol.

Bradford said she learned that because the U.S. Coast Guard has been highly successful in preventing drug smugglers from entering the nation along the Gulf Coast, and California’s border fence is all but complete, most of the new crossings have been concentrated along the Texas, New Mexico and Arizona borders.

Scott said he went on the trip to learn more about the issue to help him when he takes his oath of office in January.

“I learned real quickly that there’s such a human cost to this that I just couldn’t believe: the murders and the rapes and the policemen who have been killed,” Scott said. “The other thing I found out is a lot of people want to make this about race. This is about the rule of law. It’s incumbent upon us to protect our citizens.”

Neither plans to introduce the measure themselves, but Bradford and Scott said other Republicans who went on the trip are expected to introduce a bill into the 2011 Colorado Legislature that mirrors Arizona’s law.

Bradford said the human and financial costs to the nation and individual states have had a tremendous impact that needs to be addressed not only by Congress, but state legislatures. As a result, other proposals may be introduced next year addressing the matter.

“The two biggest things that I took away from (the tour) is the human cost and the financial cost given our budget constraints,” Bradford said. “One idea that they’re floating in Arizona is to ask illegals to pay tuition in order to go to public schools. We’re eager to see how that works.”

Under federal law, local school districts must enroll students regardless of their residency status. Similarly, hospital emergency rooms cannot turn people away, regardless of their ability to pay.

Bradford said some Arizona hospitals have cut down on the number of illegal immigrants coming in for free medical care by posting signs saying residency status will be checked for anyone seeking care.

As a result, several hospitals in the state have seen dramatic reductions in the number of patients. Doing so doesn’t violate federal law, she said, because the hospitals aren’t denying care.

She said Arizona residents are doing all these things because they’re fed up with the status quo.

“Their property is almost worthless, their cows are being slaughtered, their dogs are being killed, their homes are being broken into, they’ve sent their wives and children away,” Bradford said.

“They’ve had it, and something’s going to tip this. It’s just a matter of how and when. These people aren’t going to take it anymore.”


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