Just hours after the executive director of the Arizona Police Association appeared on The Radio Factor to voice opposition to an Arizona immigration bill that would make it a crime to be an illegal immigrant, Bill O'Reilly asserted on his television show that "the cops know" the bill would provide "a good tool for law enforcement to have."
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Just hours after the executive director of the Arizona Police Association appeared on the April 19 broadcast of Bill O'Reilly's nationally syndicated radio show to voice opposition to an Arizona immigration bill that would make it a crime to be an illegal immigrant, O'Reilly asserted, on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, that "the cops know" the bill would provide "a good tool for law enforcement to have." O'Reilly also ignored law-enforcement opposition to the bill while accusing Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D), who cited such opposition as a rationale for vetoing the legislation, of "playing politics." As The Arizona Republic reported on April 13, numerous law-enforcement officials in Arizona opposed the bill because they "don't have the resources to enforce it. They also say it will lead to racial profiling, and it will stop Hispanics from reporting crimes or acting as witnesses."
In addition, O'Reilly misrepresented the bill itself, claiming that the law "would give law enforcement a tool they need to get the bad illegal immigrants," such as those who are "dealing heroin on the streets" or "molesting children," rather than to target the "regular working" person who had entered the country illegally. In fact, the law would have criminalized being in Arizona illegally for any reason.
Both houses of the Arizona legislature passed the bill, SB1157, "Trespassing by illegal aliens," on April 12. The bill would reportedly make it a misdemeanor, and then a felony for repeat offenses, "for immigrants to enter Arizona illegally." The bill would give officers the authority "to question the immigration status of anyone they have lawfully detained" and to "[o]btain the fingerprints of any person arrested under the new law." Napolitano vetoed the law on April 17, citing, among other concerns, law-enforcement objections and the bill's "likely" unconstitutionality. In her letter explaining the veto, Napolitano stated:
Although I agree with several components of this bill ... I cannot agree with the basic premise of this bill that all persons here [illegally] should automatically be deemed criminal trespassers under state law. Among other things, this provision of the bill likely is unconstitutional. ... It is unwise, to say the least, to divert Arizona's law enforcement resources away from the investigation and prosecution of violent felonies in order to pursue misdemeanor cases. For this and other reasons, virtually every major law enforcement group and leader in the state opposes this bill."
In suggesting on The O'Reilly Factor that "the cops know" the bill would provide "a good tool for law enforcement to have," O'Reilly ignored not only reported remarks from police officials and Napolitano, but his own guest from the same day's Radio Factor broadcast, Arizona Police Association Executive Director Dale Norris. On the show, Norris explained that the bill would "impose a duty ... for police officers to make inquiry into somebody's immigration status ... solely on the basis of reasonable suspicion," which he argued would remove law-enforcement officials' ability to use discretion in such cases. Norris said the bill would force officers to go "beyond [their] investigation of why [they] stop[ped] them." When O'Reilly scoffed at the suggestion, Norris offered the following illustration of what the law would require:
[Y]ou most frequently use your reasonable stop [for], let's say, I'm responding to a robbery call. And there's a description of a vehicle that fled the scene. I see a vehicle that matches the description. I pull the vehicle over. I quickly realize now that that vehicle wasn't involved. But now, under this law, I have a duty to make inquiry into the immigration status of that person.
Norris also expressed concern over the financial burden the bill would impose on law enforcement, asking, "without any additional manpower, what laws won't we enforce to enforce this law?"
At least 16 law-enforcement agencies and officials wrote Napolitano to express similar opposition to the measure. Among those urging the veto, in addition to the Arizona Police Association, were the Associated Highway Patrolmen of Arizona, the Arizona State Fraternal Order of Police, and the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police. As reported in an April 13 Arizona Republic article, the president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association stated:
We don't have enough cops on the streets to handle the problems we've got today and now they want us to go into the back of Filiberto's and arrest the poor dishwasher while somebody is getting carjacked in the middle of the street?
The article continued, noting other civil-rights and safety concerns:
Other complaints are that the bill amounts to racial profiling that could lead to costly lawsuits and that it would adversely impact crime-fighting efforts.
Critics say illegal immigrants would stop reporting crimes and cooperating with police as witnesses, as would legal immigrants who could fear being caught without their papers. Even legal residents could find themselves having to prove they are U.S. citizens.
From the April 19 broadcast of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: "Unresolved problem" segment tonight, the governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue, has signed a bill that would penalize Georgia businesses if they hire illegal workers. The Mexican government has condemned that bill. And an Arizona governor, Janet Napolitano, has vetoed a bill that would have given Arizona law enforcement the right to arrest illegal aliens on trespass charges. With us now, Allan Wernick, an immigration attorney who teaches at Baruch College here in New York City. Let's deal with Arizona first. You know, look, I believe that the governor of Arizona is playing politics with this deal. She wants on one hand to be tough. She sent some National Guard to the border. We can't find out what the Guard is doing down there. She won't tell us. Then she turns around after the legislature passes a law that would give law enforcement a tool they need to get the bad illegal immigrants, not the regular working.
WERNICK: That's not really what it says exactly, though.
O'REILLY: Doesn't matter what it says. You know discretion. You know in law enforcement that they have discretion. And I am so angry. Say an illegal alien is dealing heroin on the streets of Phoenix, Arizona. OK? It's hard to make a case. It takes months and months to make a case. But the cops know. If this bill were passed, and I hope they override the veto, they could grab that guy today, if he's illegal, and hand him over to ICE. And that is a good tool for law enforcement to have. Where am I going wrong?
WERNICK: Well, I mean, I think the first problem, and I don't want to be too lawyer-like about this, but you know, the courts have been very uncomfortable with these kinds of state enforcement laws because what the courts have said generally, is that this is a job for the federal government. They know what to do. So you know.
O'REILLY: But let it go through the process. I understand what you're saying. The federal law overrides the state law, I understand, but let it go through, because Arizona is under siege. The federal government doesn't help them. And they're saying, look, we need to protect the folks here. And we have to give the law-enforcement officials another tool in which to do that. And this is a tool where they can round up the bad guys and hand them over to ICE right away, and let the courts sort it out. What's wrong with that?
WERNICK: Well, what's wrong with it is that, I mean, to me, the big problem is that, first of all, I don't think it would work. So you know, and I really -- let me just say I think one of the big problems in the immigration debate now in the United States is that it's all about politics. As you said, it's all about making points. And unfortunately, neither -- that the legislature, the federal legislature, has not been willing to sit down and really try to figure out solutions.
O'REILLY: But I'm living in the real world.
WERNICK: We -- well, I'm saying -- that's what I'm saying. Well, that's why I'm looking for real-world solutions.
O'REILLY: But this is easy. I'm going to give you the last word.
WERNICK: I want to answer your question about -- OK.
O'REILLY: I'm going to give you the last word. We only have a minute left. This is easy. I'm a cop. I know an illegal alien selling drugs or molesting children. I don't have to have a five-month investigation.
O'REILLY: I can grab the guy right away and get him out of there.
From the April 19 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor:
O'REILLY: Then that -- and the legislature in Arizona, rightly so, said federal court won't do anything. They haven't done anything for 40 years and they're not gonna do anything now. So we in Arizona are gonna protect ourselves by making a state issue.
NORRIS: And we don't have a problem in enforcing any law that provides us with both the resources and additional funding to handle these issues.
O'REILLY: All right. But, but look, I understand all that. Now let's cut through the fog. You, as a law enforcement officer, have discretion in what investigations you undertake, in what action you undertake. For example, if I get pulled over in Arizona and I'm speeding, I don't have to get a ticket. The guy could give me a warning. So you have discretion. And all I'm saying to you is this: that the governor was wrong to veto the bill because this would've given you guys another tool to get bad guys off the street. Where am I going wrong?
NORRIS: Well, you're a little incorrect with regard to what this bill imposes on us. Part of the bill imposes a duty, and that's the word they use in the bill, for police officers to make inquiry into somebody's immigration status solely on the basis of reasonable suspicion -
O'REILLY: But, but again, you don't have to do it. You're not compelled to stop people.
NORRIS: No, it, it says that -- no, it says the duty. What it says is if you come in contact with any person on the basis of reasonable suspicion that they have committed a crime --
O'REILLY: Aha, aha! Reasonable suspicion they've committed a crime. What's wrong with that?
NORRIS: Nothing. No -- actually police officers do that every day, Mr. O'Reilly.
O'REILLY: Right. So what's the problem?
NORRIS: Well, the problem becomes when I now have a duty to go beyond my investigation of why I stop them. And, and for law enforcement officers, it, it, it really creates a couple of huge issues when you take this type of duty and impose it upon them. In other words, take their discretion away. One of them is this: where you most frequently use your reasonable stop is let's say I'm responding to a robbery call. And there's a description of a, a vehicle that fled the scene. I see a vehicle that matches the description. I pull the vehicle over. I quickly realize now that that vehicle wasn't involved. But now under this law I have a duty to make inquiry into the immigration status of that person.
O'REILLY: Oh, come on. You have the -- look if it's a grandma driving a car with two in the back seat, you can just let them go. Come on. You're taking this literally and no law-enforcement agents in the country take the law literally. They can't. They can't. They have to make decisions. Now I'm gonna ask you one more question and this is a very simple question because as you know um, Mr. Norris, I am a very simple man. All right. If you have this law on the books in Arizona, does it not make it easier for every single Arizona police officer to take bad guys they know are bad, but they can't get them off the street. Does it not make it easier, sir?
NORRIS: I suppose in some sense it could.
O'REILLY: Thank you. Because that's all I'm saying. This is a greater good issue. This is just another um, bullet in your chamber so to speak, to protect the good people of Arizona.
NORRIS: And you know what? That's what we're all about.
O'REILLY: Right. So therefore I know I've changed your opinion on this and I know you're gonna go back and tell all the guys to, to tell the governor, to tell the legislature to override the governor's veto. And, and, look, all I want is what's best for you guys, number one, 'cause you know I'm on your side. I'm looking out for every law-enforcement agent in the country who's honest, and the good people of Arizona. And if you have illegal immigrants here committing crimes, doing bad things and you know it, you know how difficult it is to make cases against drug dealers, you know how difficult it is to make cases against child molesters, you know the pain that you have to go through to make those cases. If you have this law, you can get them on trespass and get rid of them. I'll give you the last word.
NORRIS: Um, I, I agree with you to, up to a point. Um, our, our problem remains um, the fact that what laws won't we enforce? Uh, because this is going to take manpower to do this. So without any additional manpower, what laws won't we enforce to enforce this law? And I'll, and I'll, I'll just emphasize the, the strongest point we made to the governor uh, from, from the very first day we began uh, our discussion. We want every resource possible focused on the border.