Many Arizona voters will pick up their general election ballots expecting to find some proposals to push state officials into cracking down harder on illegal immigration. But those voters are going to be sorely disappointed.
There are four ballot measures related to illegal immigration issues referred by the Legislature in the past two years. These measures are not significant steps to deter illegal crossings — such as increasing border security or starting employer sanctions. Nor do these propositions address the most significant public costs generally associated with illegal immigration — primary education, emergency health care and public safety.
That’s because too many Republican lawmakers insisted on playing political games with this issue instead of making a sincere effort to work with Gov. Janet Napolitano to find common ground. This year, the Republican majority sent Napolitano a flawed “comprehensive” package, knowing she would have to veto it and risk damaging public support for her administration. When it came to sending the same proposals to the voters, with the knowledge that the Legislature would be unable to quickly reverse any serious errors, Republican lawmakers backed down.
The four propositions that did make the ballot will strike an emotion chord with voters frustrated by federal inaction. In reviewing these measures, the Tribune Editorial Board believes only two of them would take any strides toward better public policy. We apply the same standards to these propositions as to other 15 ballot measures we are endorsing or opposing this year. The state shouldn’t burden us with more regulations and government bureaucracy unless there’s a legitimate enefit to the public, and the proposal has a strong likelihood of fulfilling the stated goals. Today, we examine Proposition 100. On Monday, we’ll review propositions 102, 103 and 300.
Proposition 100 Bailable offenses
This amendment to the state constitution would automatically deny bail to illegal immigrants who commit “serious felonies” as defined by the Legislature. County prosecutors pushed for this measure out of concern that too many dangerous criminals are able to return to their home countries without facing trial.
As the Tribune first reported in 1999, federal immigration officials do have a troubling habit of picking up accused felons and actually shipping them out of the U.S. Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas told us state judges who determine bail usually have no idea that a defendant is in this country illegally, because police aren’t required to research that information after an arrest and supply it to the court.
But this issue should be addressed without further eroding a constitutional protection. The right of bail is part of America’s cherished legal principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Bail allows defendants to better participate in their own defense, and reduces the likelihood that people will strike plea bargains for crimes they didn’t commit in the hope of receiving probation and being released from jail.
Voters already have essentially revoked the right of bail in death penalty and rape cases, and for charges of child molestation. Prop. 100 provides too much leeway for the Legislature to take away this constitutional right for an extensive list of other possible crimes.
Instead, we should rewrite state laws to make it clear that judges must take into account a defendant’s residency status when setting bail for serious felonies, and to require police to find out those details after making an arrest.