Gov. Jan Brewer said Tuesday that Arizona's precedent-setting 2010 law aimed at illegal immigration helped pave the way for the kind of legislation now being considered in Congress.
In an interview on the third anniversary of her signing SB 1070, the governor acknowledged that some key pieces of that measure never took effect. They were enjoined by a federal judge weeks after Brewer's signature and eventually declared illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court.
And two other provisions which had survived an initial challenge have since been placed on hold by a federal court, with their provisions now under review by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The governor pointed out, though, that the nation's high court last year did permit the state to require police officers to question those they have stopped about their immigration status. "And law enforcement is utilizing that provision of it,'' she said.
Brewer said the law, and even the legal fights and publicity surrounding it, set the stage for the bipartisan congressional proposal on immigration, covering everything from border security to a path to citizenship for those already here.
"I think it was the impetus that created the awareness of what we're facing in Arizona and the effects that it's having throughout the country,'' she said.
But the governor, in her first direct comments on the federal legislation said she remains skeptical that what the so-called Gang of Eight produced is the solution the country needs.
Some of it, she said, is the lack of specifics.
For example, Brewer noted the measure calls for up to 3,500 additional Border Patrol agents, use of new technology to monitor the border and authorizes the deployment of the National Guard to help. The governor wants to know where all that's going to go -- and how soon.
"It's so open-ended,'' she said.
More pressing, the governor said she wants to be sure that everything else in the measure, including the path to citizenship for the 11 million who are in this country illegally, does not overshadow what she believes is the first priority of securing the border.
Brewer said she's seen this movie before, back in 1986, when Congress and the Reagan administration approved what was billed at the time as a comprehensive solution to the issue of illegal immigration.
The result, the governor said, was 3 million gained U.S. citizenship. But the border remained unsecured and people continued to cross the border illegally and overstay their visas.
"We don't want to see that replay itself again,'' she said. Failure to do it right, she said, means "we'll be right back there dealing with another, what, 10 million, 12 million illegal immigrants in 20 years?''
"I want to be supportive,'' Brewer said. "But I think I have a right, all Americans have a right, to be a little skeptical at this time.''
The governor said even if Congress acts, and even if the federal measure does staunch the flow of people coming across the border illegally, Arizona will still need what's left of SB 1070.
In last year's Supreme Court ruling the justice unanimously concluded there is nothing inherently wrong with the requirement for police to make such an effort when there is reason to believe a person is in this country illegally. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said there was no reason to believe, at least at this point, that provision of SB 1070 would be enforced in a way to violate the rights of individuals.
And the justices specifically rejected arguments by the Obama administration, which sued the state in 2010, that such a mandate illegally infringes on the exclusive right of the federal government to regulate immigration.
But the ruling came with a warning of sorts. The justices said if there is evidence that people are being unfairly stopped or detained for long periods of time they would take another look at the law -- and potentially preclude the state from enforcing it. No such lawsuits have been filed.
Brewer said police need the ability to demand identification from people, including proof of their legal presence in this country. She also has said it is not discriminatory, pointing out how the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board came up with materials designed to help police enforce the law without violating individual rights.