Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

December 14, 2007


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable


  • Ted Simons hosts HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
It's Friday, December 14th, 2007. Headlines this week, immigration continues to be the hot topic. A forum last night on changes in the way Phoenix Police deal with suspected illegal immigrants got a little out of hand. Sheriff Joe Arpaio's' views on racial profiling. The latest over the employer sanctions law. And we'll update the Snowbowl's long running dispute with a local Indian tribe over making snow. That's next on Horizon.

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Ted Simons:
Good evening. I'm Ted Simons and this is Journalist's Roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Mary Jo Pitzl of the "Arizona Republic," Kathleen Ingley of the "Arizona Republic" and Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio accused of racial profiling. He's getting sued by a Mexican citizen who was legally in the United States. Mary Jo, what's this all about?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Well, I think you could look at it on a couple different levels. But this is a strike to try to get the Sheriff's office to back off on what some folks feel are overly heavy-handed tactics. What I find interesting, having covered this employer sanctions business so closely, is that this is coming right -- it's being filed by an attorney who is also suing the state over the employer sanctions law. Why would you do this? Well, because the sheriff's office will be responsible for doing the investigation under the sanctions law. So it's a way to perhaps head that off. And more to the heart of the complaint, they say that the practices are discriminatory and they lead to racial profiling.

Howard Fischer:
Interesting underlying issue here, the guy is a passenger in a vehicle that's pulled over. We don't know whether it's legitimately or whether the guy was simply guilty of driving while brown. Sheriff Deputies have been cross trained under a section of law called 287-G to also question and detain suspected illegal immigrants. Now, this guy was here legally. He produced a visa, a visitor's visa, valid one, the deputies are saying, but he said he was looking for work. And the argument by the Sheriff is when you're looking for work on a visitor's visa you're violating federal law. Somehow that all came up in a conversation may stretch a little bit of credibility here that a guy who speaks no English and deputies who is Spanish skills are probably a little limited determine he was looking for work seems to be a stretch. Obviously they're using this to go back to Mary Jo's point to boot strap that the deputies are exceeding the authority they got from the federal government and sending troops to go out to look for brown people.

Ted Simons:
It does beg the question. How do you know that this person had a visitor's visa as opposed to work visa without stopping them and saying, what have you got?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
More fundamentally, though, why are you stopping them? What's stopping them?

Howard Fischer:
That's the driving while brown problem. It wouldn't be the first time. The State D.P.S. is under a consent agreement because they found out a lot of the people being stopped were minorities, and more importantly a larger percentage of the minorities had their car searched. It wouldn't be the first agency to run into this problem.

Kathleen Ingley:
According to our news story, the driver was Anglo in this case and stopped for speeding, not issued a citation. So I think this really fuels people's paranoia. So they think, so they stop a passenger who might be an illegal immigrant and enjoin on the passenger. The level of paranoia is getting pretty high. We were talking earlier about a poll finding about 50\% of Hispanics in the U.S. said they were worried that someone they knew, a family member, a friend, would be deported. And my own Spanish tutor, an older woman who's been in the United States for years, she says she is afraid of being stopped.

Ted Simons:
Well, to that end, the level of agitation got a little high last night at a town hall on phoenix immigration policy. And a lot of folks expressing fear, frustration and then some. Take a look what happened last night. [jeering]

Ted Simons: Folks in favor of changing the policy were escorted out of the town hall meeting. So this is just a little bit of the angst going on in a town hall meeting where everybody is supposed to be on their best behavior.

Howard Fischer:
But some of the organizations, people like Mary Rose Wilcox, she pretty much wanted the town hall meeting to hear her side, her side being, don't have city police enforcing immigration laws. Now, not anyone on the panel felt that way. Grant Woods, former Attorney General, did want to hear from some of the other side. But the idea was, you know, this isn't supposed to be a true open town hall or is this just a gripe session? And I think that was the frustration, you know. There are nut cases on all sides of the issue. But I think part of the frustration for folks who want more police enforcement was, wait, don't we get our side on this?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
You might avoid this kind of situations if the panel that's actually been charged by Mayor Gordon with taking a look and taking the bold policy convenes the meeting itself. This meeting was called by folks who are very happy with the current Phoenix Police policy and don't want to see it changed. In a way they argued their party got crashed. So perhaps if you want to hear all sides you need to have the four-member panel call a town hall.

Ted Simons:
What are we looking for as far as the panel is concerned and recommendations?

Howard Fischer:
They can recommend anything they want. They can recommend that every phoenix police officer get that 287-G training I was talking about that Sheriff's deputies have which would put them in the position of being able to detain illegal immigrants. 287-G doesn't send them out on a workplace raid. It says if you come across them in the normal course of your duties you can question them. People would like police to do raid. It's not going to come there for the simple reason a lot of Phoenix residents say, it's one thing if you come across somebody. But do we want Phoenix police to be busy enforcing immigration law versus doing what else they're going, given the rate of stolen cars and burglary. Immigration is farther down on my priority list.

Ted Simons:
What about the situation at Pruitt's right now? I understand the owner of Pruitt's and immigration activist is agreeing to meet? What's going on here?

Howard Fischer:
Essentially that's it. They originally had at one point an agreement. When the day laborers were first kicked off of the Home Depot property and they moved up to Pruitt's, originally it was some sort of agreement they would actually gather in a church parking lot across the street. That never happened. People got their backs up. When the owner of Pruitt's hired security guards, the Hispanic group said that violates our agreement so we're now coming to come out with Mariachi bands and everything else. You really need cool heads to prevail on this.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
What happened this week, I believe the mayor got them to agree once again to sit down and talk, the opposing sides. It will be interesting to see who shows up outside of Pruitt's tomorrow morning.

Ted Simons:
Very much so. I want to get to employer sanctions law. The next hearing set for --

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Tuesday.

Ted Simons:
It must be time for the hearing. Give us an update on the various court measures going on.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
The employer sanctions has sort of been whipping all around in the last week. At this time last week, when you folks were taping the show, there was still not a verdict in the case brought by business and Hispanic groups who say this is a bad law. Low and behold the judge worked late and late last Friday night he tossed out the case. He said you sued the wrong people and don't really have standing. Less than three days later they were back with another lawsuit, got a new judge. That had an interesting twist. But it didn't stay with federal judge Mary [indiscernible] for very long. She handed it back to Judge Wake. The interesting thing about the other judge is her sister is the President of the La Raca. You can imagine from phone calls I got what reaction there would have been going forward if she had stayed on the case. She sidestepped that whole issue. We now have a new lawsuit. We have actually the lawsuit brought -- two new lawsuits that go into the same law and a hearing will be held on Tuesday for the request for an accept prairie training order and a preliminary injunction. So they're pedaling like mad. The business groups with support from Hispanic groups to get this law on hold so it does not go into effect January 1.

Howard Fischer:
One of the most interesting points as a journalist of the new lawsuit is when judge wake through it out he pointed out two things. A should have sued the county attorneys. And B even in terms of the underlying law, you want me to enjoy a law that makes it illegal to hire illegals but you haven't shown me anybody who is hiring illegals. So now they have essentially permission to file under seal an affidavit from an employer who said, I hire illegals. I was personally threatened by Sheriff Joe. I continue to hire illegals. And yet we don't know who this is.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
One correction, they don't have permission. They're seeking their permission.

Howard Fischer:
In terms of --

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Of naming those people.

Howard Fischer: Well, they're seeking permission to file it under seal. I don't think we'll ever see the name. That's the question. If much of the standing of the case turns on the question of whose this, you know, in fact the old senate hearings on the mafia where they testified behind the screen or something. I'm not sure what we're headed for here. But essentially this standing may turn on an anonymous witness who says, yes, my business hires illegal immigrants.

Kathleen Ingley:
But I can't imagine that this will not create a -- we're already seeing a little bit of protests from the public saying, wait a minute. And you kind of wonder how the judge would react. You are saying that the problem is that you are not going to follow the law. And so you've got a problem. And it's easy to imagine a judge saying, well, in this particular case, what if you followed the law? Then would you be hurt?

Howard Fischer:
And it goes even a step beyond that. Because by admitting that they are hiring undocumented workers they're already violating existing federal law. So it just gets weirder and weirder. This case that Mary Jo and I have been following for years.

Ted Simons:
Then you've got the county attorney saying, I'd like to know who this person is. The sheriff saying, I'd like to know, too, because I want to warn as opposed to threaten. He's not threatening folks, he's warning them that come January 1st, I'll be looking for you.

Howard Fischer:
Well, and that's an interesting angle to the whole thing. Their claim is the sheriff personally threatened this person now. When I talked to Sheriff Joe he said, I don't threaten anybody. Now, I did go talk to groups and I told them, you better watch out. The sheriff is watching. I don't know what constitutes a threat and whether that's enough to have you standing in federal court.

Kathleen Ingley:
What else this has done it has focused attention on Arizona. We think all this is a battle going on in Arizona. In fact, the nation is watching us, trying to figure out what the heck's going to happen in Arizona. Today we had a front page story from the "Wall Street Journal" and the "New York Times." I don't know how often they have an a-1 story on Arizona in one day. That may be the first.

Howard Fischer:
Ed Meacham. We always get attention when it comes to Ed Meacham, Fife Symington being convicted of a crime. That's how we get national attention. A little scary.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Given Arizona is one of the very first states to go down the path of employer sanctions. They haven't -- it was tested but only very peripherally in Oklahoma they have an employer sanctions law but basically the judge just denied a restraining order. So we have yet to see what will happen in Oklahoma. So Arizona is ready to go into this full bore. You also had Mayor Gordon's actions of last week saying we're going to change our policy so the police will be able to ask about immigration status. This has folks, they're watching this all over the place.

Ted Simons:
Kathleen, the focus of both stories which I saw as well, surprised to see them on the same day from these publications, wasn't the focus basically the rest of the country is watching?

Kathleen Ingley:
Absolutely. And we're going to see, does this all blow up in our face. They mentioned the economic risks we're taking. By going it alone in the federal where all states are on an equal footing, we are risking 8\% of our economy and 10\% of our labor force.

Howard Fischer:
The problem, is how many years have we waited for congress to act? It's nice to say, yes, it's a federal issue. You hear all sides saying it's a federal issue. We have 535 morons sitting in Washington who have yet to figure this out. So we're stuck.

Ted Simons:
As far as the economic damage here, what are we seeing, what are we hearing as far as anecdotal evidence and then some? Are people leaving? Are the jobs driving up? What's going on?

Howard Fischer:
I don't know people are leaving. Although I have heard anecdotal evidence that school attendance is down. Businesses that have a large percentage of illegal immigrants, downtown Chandler and such have said anecdotally, we can't even pay the rent. I've also heard -- again these are stories that some companies can't get loans because of the fact that the banks figure, hey, if you get put out of business because you're hiring illegals, not going to be anybody here to pay us back. So what will happen? If Judge Wake denies the restraining orders and they can't get a restraining order from the ninth circuit, so on January 1st this law will take effect, let's sit here on the first Friday of January around this table and I'll give you a better answer to that one.

Kathleen Ingley:
And people are not thinking -- not talking much yet about the super bowl. Super bowl, huge event for hotels, restaurants, employers that often have the illegal work force.

Howard Fischer:
We're all hiding illegal people. Never mind the half-million legals here.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Never mind the people we've named in the lawsuit that we're not naming that have hinted to hiring illegals.

Ted Simons:
Before we move off this, the e-verify system, businesses still slow to apply. We still seeing that?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Yeah, I think so. I didn't check any numbers this week. But here in Arizona, many of the businesses have been advised by their attorneys who are often the very same people who are suing to block the law, to just hold off. Let's wait and see what the judge does.

Howard Fischer:
The reason, is because when you sign this memorandum of understanding with Homeland Security you're agreeing to let them -- give them access to your business and to your records. And the moment you do that, the argument that -- is waiving your fourth amendment rights against search and seizure. So maybe you're paranoid but it doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
If January comes and goes and we have a law in this state, I don't know how many are poised to hire a whole rack of illegals on January 1 it's all computer based and doesn't take very long. I don't think you'll see a tidal wave of change. We can sit think it will be very difficult to quantify any effects other than legal.

Ted Simons:
To Howie's remark regarding paranoia, sometimes it's justified, let's move on to the governor and her ideas of an enhanced I.D. and before we get into it too deeply, some lawmakers had their concerns.

[From video] Karen Johnson:
Today with hand-held technology available to read RFIB chips at a distance, no rational person can assure Americans that their personal data will not be stolen and abused. This isn't Nazi Germany. And I oppose requiring people to carry tracking devices in their pockets.

[From video] Governor Napolitano:
Well, with all respect you got to look at who's making the press conference. She opposes any kind of agreement with anybody outside of Arizona on the grounds that it's unconstitutional. She opposed NAFTA, all these things. There's an ideological bent there that is hers. But it certainly doesn't represent the majority of Arizonans. It's a particular one.

Ted Simons:
All right, Howie, what do you make of all this?

Howard Fischer:
Well, I think the governor is a little off base in terms of what Arizonans think. I mean, this is a state of people who have a healthy fear and often a justified fear of "I'm from the government. I'm here to help you." We've got these driver's licenses with encoded information on the back. They want to put in a RFID chip, essentially a transponder. When you go buy a reader it will signal it and not a personal information but unique identification number you've been given. All you would know is the personal identification number. But once you figure out, oh, Howie just went by and this number came up, now you know my number. These chips will be readable from a distance of 20 feet. Have you seen the cameras already on the light poles? I mean, if the government wanted to they could put a RFID leader on every light pole and they can track you, Ted, everywhere you go, the topless bar, you know, how fast you're speeding.

Ted Simons:
Howie.

Howard Fischer:
Look, maybe I'm being paranoid. But the fact is the government wants to create a national I.D. but don't dare call it a national I.D. so they'll turn each of our driver's licenses into a national I.D.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
What the governor has agreed to with the federal authorities is to offer Arizonans the option of an enhanced driver's license. The governor emphasized that at her news briefing, nobody is going to be forced to do this. It will be optional. It will cost a little more.

Howard Fischer:
And how long do you believe before the optional driver's license becomes the only driver's license?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
There you go. That was the point of the lawmakers. It was not just Senator Johnson out by herself voicing these concerns. It was members of the senate leadership and even -- well moderate Carolyn Allen. If we start down this path we won't be able to stop it and we'll end up with a tracking device in our pocket.

Kathleen Ingley:
I think editorially the republic supported having a national I.D. card. But I don't know -- I mean, I haven't kept up on it, I don't know where countries the national I.D. cards has a little tracker. I do share your concern that your physical whereabouts can be tracked. Now of course, there are cameras all over the place already.

Howard Fischer:
Here's the other thing. The governor is saying you'll need this to board federal aircraft, to go across the border. Well, we've actually got an option for that. It's called a passport if you want to buy one. Why should you convert the state's driver's license? All this says, is I've been trained that yellow line stays on the left, the right line stays on the right and the big red thing means stop.

Kathleen Ingley:
That's all?

Howard Fischer:
Well…

Kathleen Ingley:
This is why we want to track Howie. We want to stay away from you on the road.

Howard Fischer:
You mean the speeds mean something?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
The red sign means stop.

Ted Simons:
Lawmakers, are they going to go along with this?

Howard Fischer:
No. I'm be willing to bench bet you. The problem the governor has, this isn't like last year where they were ask pushing a bill to block identification. She needs legislative permission to let the motor vehicle division create a new type of license. I would be willing to bet you out of 90 lawmakers maybe she's got 20 votes, maybe 30. People, you know, leaving aside maybe -- I'm not saying this is republicans. When the bill to block the state from participating in real I.D. got out of a house committee last year, it was 10-0 bipartisan. There were more than 20 votes in the house to block that. There were enough people concerned about their privacy.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
This will be a tough pull. Especially when you overlay it with all the other issues we'll see in the next session I.E. a big struggle over the state budget, there may be a lot of horse trading that goes along with this. It's going to make a lot to make this happen because of the privacy concerns.

Ted Simons:
Onto English language learners. Judges saying can't you just work it out?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
One of the judges from the ninth circuit said, haven't you guys tried mediation? The answer was no. So really the next day the court issued an order and said, try it. And we'll have our guy contact your people and we need a report back by the 20th of December to see if it's feasible. Most of the parties say, well, we've been talking and we'll talk. But the governor's office is in the forefront saying, but what's the point? Because the legislative interveners who have been objecting to what it's going to lake to bring Arizona's program into legal compliance, they can only speak for themselves. Speaker Weiers might want to say he can deliver a majority of his chamber but he can't guarantee that. Likewise for Senate President Tim Bee. Therefore is it worth it to sit down and mediate.

Howard Fischer:
The other part of the problem is mediation usually presumes, okay, we're currently spending $365 per student per additional E.L.L. student her year. Tim Hogan says maybe it should be 1800, mediation would bring us somewhere in between. Lawmakers believe the figure is 365 not only is defensible but is all they're legally required to do. Given the financial situation you talk about this year, maybe 1 billion in the hole, 1.8 billion next year, it will be real hard to convince them absent a federal court order. The other part of it, Mary Jo and I know having gone up to San Francisco as the republican slack saying, we'll go in the U.S. Supreme Court and Ken Starr is going to represent us. So they're counting on the fight. They're looking forward to the fight.

Ted Simons:
How realistic is the idea you'll get together and get a mediation process to these two groups?

Kathleen Ingley:
Since they've been battling over this and not found any common ground for how many years, it seems unlikely.

Ted Simons:
Snow making? Please Howie if you could?

Howard Fischer:
There's a federal law that says federal action can't interfere with religious freedoms or practices. The city of Flagstaff agreed to sell treated effluent Snowbowl sits on federal property. The tribes who see the mountain there as sacred said, wait a second. To the extent you're putting treated effluent up there, you're interfering with religious practices sued. Got a three panel judge to rule for the first time you can use this law even off reservation on more generic things than just somebody practicing their religion in prison. On Thursday the full ninth circuit heard the case. It will be real interesting to see how far they think the law goes. This one also is going to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ted Simons:
All right. Got about 30 seconds. I know iHop in the news quickly.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
iHop in a great publicity coup says could you move the primary? It interferes with National Pancake Day. We use that day for charity. It didn't go well over at all. Governor Napolitano said I think people will find time to vote and eat breakfast on that day.

Ted Simons:
Hope she doesn't have a ten year on that one.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
iHop don't buy that. They moved National Pancake Day to a week later.

Howard Fischer:
I want you to know we're all going out for flap jacks that morning.

Ted Simons:
We'll end it right there. Thank you very much.

Mike Sauceda:
A forum held on Phoenix's effort to change its policy to allow police to ask about immigration status gets out of control. Some people were tossed out of the event. We'll talk to one of the organizers of the event. Steve Forbes will talk about the economy and Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign. He serves on Giuliani's campaign. That's Monday at 7:00 on Horizon.

Ted Simons:
Tuesday a conversation with Governor Napolitano. Wednesday a roundtable on the potential impact of the employer sanctions law. Thursday the Phoenix Metropolitan Opera. And Friday we'll be back with another edition of the Journalist's Roundtable. Coming up, is the internet rewriting the rules of political campaigns? The Ron Paul phenomenon. That's next on Now. I'm Ted Simons. Have a great weekend.




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