Rep. Daryl Metcalfe is keeping us busy this week. First there was his fringe idea of denying citizenship to babies born in the United States through state legislation, completely subverting the 14th Amendment.
Today we put out an action alert calling on our supporters to contact their state reps to ask them to not co-sponsor Metcalfe’s state constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships.
Yesterday I did an email interview with a staffer from politicspa.com, and while the piece turned out to be a profile of Metcalfe with no real analysis of the issues at hand- and, thus, minus my comments- the beauty of using the internets is that we can self-publish. So here’s the transcript of what I sent to politicspa.com. The initial questions are about Metcalfe’s bill that mirrors Arizona’s “papers please” law.
PoliticsPA: On what grounds does ACLU object to such a bill?
Andy: The Arizona law is unconstitutional, and a federal court affirmed that position. The law is pre-empted by federal law on immigration and will inevitably lead to racial profiling.
The states don’t have the power to simply make up their own immigration laws. Certainly, state legislators have every right to be frustrated with the federal government, on any number of issues. But they don’t just get to take over that area of law because they’re frustrated. If state legislators were frustrated with how the federal government handles foreign policy, could they just take it over? Of course not. The same is true with immigration.
PoliticsPA: How would its enforcement affect immigrant communities in PA?
Andy: Passing this bill in PA would negatively impact relationships between immigrant communities and law enforcement. Immigrants- with or without papers- would be afraid to speak up as witnesses and as victims. The law enforcement community understands this, which is why so many of them spoke up when Metcalfe introduced the bill last session.
This bill would also scare away all immigrants and suggest that Pennsylvania is not a place where immigrants are welcome. Arizona’s census numbers were below expectations. Why? No one can say for certain, but it is reasonable to speculate that SB 1070 played a role in driving people away. There was certainly plenty of anecdotal evidence of that. This impacts federal funding for the state and how many members of Congress we have.
Immigrants also make our communities safer because they commit crime at a lower rate than natural born citizens. Hazleton’s crime rate dropped between 2000 and 2005 when it’s population increased 50% due to an influx of immigrants, as we proved in court. El Paso, TX, is one of the safest big cities in the country. And Arizona’s crime rate is the lowest its been in at least a decade and maybe more.
PoliticsPA: How would you respond to the claim that this bill would help PA’s economy?
Andy: That claim has no basis in fact. Every legitimate study of the economic benefits of immigrants, with or without papers, shows that immigration is a net economic gain.
The anti-immigrant crowd hangs its hat on a study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center considers a hate group. The FAIR study produced only a gross number and did not consider the ways in which people without papers give back economically. In addition, more than 90% of the costs in the FAIR study were for education, and 75% of those students were natural born citizens. In other words, when anti-immigrant legislators cite the FAIR study, they are complaining about the costs of educating US citizens.
PoliticsPA: Rep. Matcalfe insists that the bill would not lead to racial profiling, citing provisions that law enforcement could only investigate someone’s legal status as a secondary issue. Do you think it would lead to racial
Andy: Yes. When the bill was introduced, Rep. Creighton told the Lancaster paper that an officer has to make a “subjective decision” when deciding whether or not to check a person’s immigration status. That’s exactly our point.
We have a case that illustrates this, even without this law in place. Our client was born in New Jersey and is of Puerto Rican descent. He was caught up in a drug sweep at his workplace. The drug charges were cleared quickly, but he was then held for three days for possible deportation. His driver’s license and his Social Security card were in his wallet, in the government’s possession, the entire time.
In western PA, there was a situation where a police officer asked a man for his papers while he sat on his front porch. It is inevitable that this bill, if enacted, will lead to racial profiling.
PoliticsPA: How does ACLU plan to combat this effort?
Andy: Well, we have a lot of work to do. We must convince community leaders, including the business community and law enforcement, to speak up, and we must organize at the grass roots level, too. I don’t think legislators hear enough from their constituents who are with us, and we have to change that.
PoliticsPA: How about his idea to limit birthright citizenship?
Andy: Here’s our press release on it. This bill is unconstitutional. The 14th Amendment protects the American values of fairness and equality. It ensures that a person’s citizenship does not hinge on who his parents are or where they came from. It stops citizenship from becoming a political football and from being prone to the discriminatory whims of the day. Without it, we would create a permanent underclass. Metcalfe’s bill would create a caste system in America.
If Metcalfe’s immigration bills somehow became law, it would cost the commonwealth a lot of money. The laws would be challenged, and the commonwealth would almost certainly lose.