Toomey backs Arizona immigration law (updated)

The debate over Arizona's new anti-illegal immigration law is reverberating around the country and Pennsylvania is no exception.

Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey backed the controversial statute when asked about it during an interview on Glenn Beck's radio show Wednesday.

"If you have a federal government tha's not enforcing the law, and does not preserve the integrity of its own borders then naturally states are going to take matters into their own hands," the former congressman said.
 
Arizona's statute mandates that local police enforce federal immigration laws if they determine a suspect is in the country illegally. Critics have said it will promote racial profiling and drain resources away from local law enforcement.

"The fact is Arizona has been bearing an awful brunt of the problems that arise from the lack of federal enforcement," Toomey said. "It's recently escalated to the point where people are getting killed. So why should we be surprised that Arizona is deciding it has to take measures into its own hands?"

The day before Toomey spoke with Beck another prominent Pennsylvania Republican expressed concern about Arizona's law.

"I'm uncomfortable with it from what I've seen and heard," former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge told the Associated Press. "It's ridiculous to think ... we're going to identify 12 million to 14 million people and send them back."

In a statement issued Thursday, Toomey said illegal immigration is a problem in Pennsylvania, but not on the same scale as it is in Arizona and California.

"We are not at such a crisis point where we need to take the kind of steps that Arizona did, but I can certainly understand why state lawmakers in Arizona felt they had to take action," he said.

Toomey noted he was sensitive to concerns about the law's potential impact on civil liberties but called for a wait-and-see approach.

"Let's see whether responsible law enforcement officials in Arizona act properly, and let's see if this makes an impact on illegal immigration," he said. "If Arizona can implement its law without civil liberties abuses, then they should have the right to do that, and to address a serious local problem that Washington has completed failed on."

(Updated at 5:26 p.m.)

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