Brewer claims AZ's immigration law mirrors feds

Posted at 6:17 PM, Apr 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-14 00:15:16-04

Arizona knows a thing or two about controversial laws.

SB 1070, signed into law by then-Gov. Jan Brewer in April 2010, allows state and local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally.

Brewer, who has endorsed Donald Trump for president, reflected on the law in a March 28 Fox Business interview about President Barack Obama’s plan to admit 100,000 refugees by 2017.

"The Arizona law, Senate Bill 1070, simply, just mirrors federal law," Brewer said. 

"...Senate Bill 1070, simply, just mirrors federal law."

It sounded a bit of an odd response by Brewer, given that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down most of the law in 2012, which included provisions such as making working in the country illegally a crime.

Does Arizona’s immigration law really mirror federal law? We put Brewer's statement through a PolitiFact truth-check. 

SB 1070 a shell of its former self

The law on the books today is a shell of the legislation that passed in 2010. Federal courts struck down every provision of the law with the exception of Section 2(B). That section allows state and local law enforcement to ask for proof of citizenship if that person is detained on a non-immigration related offense and the officer has "reasonable suspicion" that the person is undocumented.

"It does not really ‘mirror’ federal law, which delegates enforcement power to federal immigration authorities, not state and local law enforcement," said Kevin Johnson, dean of the University of California, Davis School of Law.

But it’s close.

UC Davis law professor Gabriel "Jack" Chin noted that there is a federal statute that allows the exchange of immigration information between the federal government and state and local police.  And a 2005 Supreme Court ruling in Muehler vs. Mena found that local police can ask someone lawfully stopped for their name, date of birth or immigration status.

"It is not inaccurate to say that the state policy of gathering immigration information is consistent with federal law," Chin said. "As the Supreme Court held, it is certainly possible that SB 1070 could be interpreted in ways that violate federal law, but the basic step of gathering information does not."

What about the rest of the law Brewer signed?

The problem with this narrow view of Brewer’s statement is that it ignores the host of other provisions passed by the Legislature that were deemed inconsistent with federal law.

SB 1070 initially included several provisions. According to Northern Arizona University criminology professor Raymond Michalowski, the law originally:

1. Made it a crime of "trespassing" to be undocumented in Arizona;

2. Allowed citizens to sue a local entity if they feel immigration laws are not properly enforced;

3. Made it a crime to stop your car to pick up a day laborer;

4. Made it a crime to transport an undocumented immigrant;

5. Made it a crime to work without papers and allowed state police to arrest individuals without a warrant if they believed the person was in the country illegally. 

All of these provisions, in the opinion of the courts, contradicted -- not mirrored -- federal law.

"Federal immigration and criminal law contains none of these provisions," Michalowski said. "So the claim that SB 1070 ‘mirrors’ federal law is a fundamental misrepresentation of what that law sought to do."

"The Supreme Court in its decision over SB 1070 indicated that it did not believe that the statute mirrored the federal law, and in fact, even if it did, it felt that it was improper for the state to engage in the activity that they wanted to do under that statute," said Evelyn Cruz, Arizona State University’s Immigration Clinic Director.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in the SB 1070 case also makes this clear:

"Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law," he wrote.

Our ruling

Brewer said, "Senate Bill 1070, simply, just mirrors federal law."

The law on the books today comes close to mirrored federal law. But that’s only because the majority of the law was tossed out by the federal courts because it conflicted with federal law.

It’s an odd thing for Brewer to be bragging about. Brewer’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.


For the complete fact-check, visit our news partner, PolitiFact Arizona