Washington – A Senate subcommittee on Tuesday held a hearing on Arizona's SB 1070 immigration law at which its main promoter, Russell Pearce, put forward his arguments against those of some of the defenders of the DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for qualified undocumented youth.
The case became the subject of a hearing at the request of the chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, New York Democrat Charles Schumer, who has been a firm supporter of immigration reform.
Five states - Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah - have drafted laws following Arizona's example, Schumer warned, alluding to the need for federal immigration legislation.
"Under our Constitution, states do not have the right to pass their own laws preempting federal laws on immigration. It is wrong and counterproductive to criminalize people because of their immigration status," Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin, one of the promoters of the DREAM Act, argued.
Durbin said that the young people who would benefit if the DREAM Act were passed could find themselves criminalized under measures like SB 1070.
The only witness defending SB 1070 was its author, former Arizona state Sen. Pearce, who was ousted last year in a recall election.
"I have been in public service most of my life and I have seen the real costs and damage caused by the presence of illegal aliens in our country. In Arizona alone, the annual cost of illegal immigration is approximately $2.6 billion," he said Tuesday.
Pearce also alluded to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in arguing his position.
"Four of the five leaders of the 9/11 attack were in violation of our immigration laws and had contact with law enforcement but were not arrested. The abuse of U.S. immigration laws was instrumental in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people on that tragic day in America," he said.
Durbin and Schumer were the only senators at the hearing, as the panel's GOP members boycotted the event.
"I will not participate in today's hearing because it is strictly political theater," Sen. Jon Kyl, the top Republican on the subcommittee, said in a statement.
The ruling to be issued by the Supreme Court on SB 1070, probably in June, will carry heavy political weight in this election year and will also delineate the future course of similar laws in other states.