This should really concern us all. Arizona has really ignited a disaster.
MARK HORNBECK | Detroit News Lansing Bureau
May 9, 2010
Lansing -- The controversial immigration law recently passed in Arizona has sparked some interest in similar reform in Michigan.
Rep. Kim Meltzer, R-Clinton Township, is drafting a bill that would give police officers the authority to arrest illegal aliens who are stopped and questioned on another offense, while Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard is making immigration a key topic in his race for the Republican nomination for governor.
The Arizona law passed last month directs police to stop suspected illegal aliens and ask them for documentation proving their lawful residency. It has triggered a heated debate and numerous jokes on late-night television, touched off protests across the country and prompted states to look at revising their laws.
While Michigan doesn't have nearly the immigration problem states in the southwest have, the issue is enough of a concern to federal border officials that they allocated about $20 million a year ago for 11 cameras to be set up along the St. Clair River to watch for illegal immigrants crossing from Canada.
Meltzer said she's proposing tightening immigration laws because "we have borders in place for a reason. "We should not tie the hands of local law enforcement."
She said the firestorm over the Arizona law is misplaced.
"Everyone should play by the rules," Meltzer said.
Meltzer said she's realistic about the chances of her bill being taken up by the Democrat-dominated House. She said other immigration legislation she has proposed has languished in committee.
Shelli Weisberg, legislative director for ACLU Michigan, said the organization will fight the Meltzer bill in the Legislature and in court if it comes to that.
"We don't want an Arizona-style bill. It encourages racial profiling," Weisberg said.
She added such a law would put Michigan out of step with other states and "make us look like a police state."
The national ACLU's website urges members to pass alson a message to their governors and lawmakers: "What happens in Arizona, stops in Arizona."
Bouchard is hitting the immigration issue hard in his campaign. He says the federal government's failure to secure the borders is the reason Arizona had to take action. He called for Michigan to follow the Grand Canyon State's example.
"More and more people are sneaking into America on the southern and northern borders from countries that are known terrorist havens," Bouchard said. He also said those here illegally are taking jobs and stealing identities to get those jobs.
"Michigan is a huge border state and needs to follow suit and pass legislation that allows local police to enforce mirroring provisions of federal law and then submit a bill to the federal government for costs."
Bill Rustem, president of the Lansing-based Public Sector Consultants Inc., said there likely isn't much political mileage to be gained from pushing an immigration law here similar to the Arizona measure.
"It probably appeals to a small percentage of people who will vote in a Republican primary and an even smaller portion of the general election," Rustem said. "It seems to be a purely political calculation to reach out and say 'I'm more conservative than my opponent,' and to appeal to the tea party wing. I don't sense any massive rage against immigrants in Michigan, whether they're from Mexico or Canada."
There is no official estimate of the number of illegal aliens in Michigan, said state demographer Ken Darga, who added the counting process "is pretty imprecise."
Ken Grabowski, legislative director for the Police Officers Association of Michigan, said a law giving local police more authority to deal with illegal aliens is "probably something that needs to be done.
"In many instances, if police find someone who is here illegally, they take them to the local (Immigration and Naturalization Service) office, and the person is given an appearance notice for a later date. But nobody ever shows up. It's a farce."