Today, Maricopa County Attorney, Andrew Thomas, held a press conference announcing his appreciation for two new laws empowering county attorneys to enforce illegal immigration efforts throughout Arizona.
Thomas, who called the passage of the legislation a, “Victory for the People,” will now have a mechanism to enforce the mandates passed by voters in Proposition 100.
“These new laws are also the latest evidence that this is still a democracy. The people have the final say on how our government operates,” Thomas said. “Their voice was heard loud and clear.”
House Bill 2779, signed yesterday by the Governor, empowers county attorneys with a mechanism to penalize employers who knowingly and intentionally hire illegal immigrants. Businesses now run the risk of having their business licenses revoked for violating existing illegal immigration employment law.
Senate Bill 1265, also signed yesterday, asserts probable cause as the standard of proof when deciding whether or not an illegal immigrant can be denied bail when accused with a serious felony. Prior to this morning, superior courts utilized a standard called the “Simpson hearings.” (Under the Simpson hearings, two questions were asked regarding the defendant: Did the defendant commit a felony that qualifies under Proposition 100 and, Is it better than just “probable” that the defendant is in the country illegally? The diffidulty with the Simpson standard has been caused by the fact that a defendant must face the hearing within 24 hours after initial appearance – a coordinating nightmare for judges, public defenders, prosecutors, court interpretors and law enforcement officers. This in addition to finding courtroom space.)
However this morning, the Arizona Supreme Court eliminated the Simpson hearings standard thorough court decree replacing it with the probable cause standard.
Both laws will go into effect January 1st but may face a constitutional challenge by immigration activists. Yesterday, Hispanic legislators decried the Governor’s signing of both bills. Maricopa County Supervisor, Mary Rose Wilcox, responded to the Governors actions by vowing that, “We have five months for the business community to rally and come to the table and demand that the House and Senate come back to the table and work on this bill.” “People are just incensed about this. This will be disastrous for the state of Arizona,” she said.
Thomas also announced that his office will be forming an internal committee to prepare for implementing policies and enforcement of both laws.
Anticipating criticism from the business community and immigration advocates, Thomas was adamant about opening a dialog and discussion with leaders.
Thomas also stated that his office will partner with other law enforcement agencies to ensure that the county can balance any new caseload. When asked if the $1.5 million was sufficient to carry out the anticipated workload, Thomas responded that he did not have enough information at this time to determine that. But he did note that he would pursue additional funding, if necessary, through the legislature or the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
Critics have assailed that the new employer sanction law will lead to an increase of bogus and frivolous complaints but Thomas addressed this by asserting that his office will implement policies to destinguish bogus from bona fide complaints. Thomas was most adamant in stating that his office will prosecute every defendant “fairly and equitably” under the new laws.
In the meantime, Maricopa County’s top attorney will take several months to prepare his office before both laws go into effect.