GOP senators boycott Democrat-led hearing on Arizona’s immigration law

GOP senators boycott Democrat-led hearing on Arizona’s immigration law

Republicans on Tuesday boycotted a Democratic-led subcommittee hearing on Arizona’s controversial immigration bill.

The GOP senators called the hearing “theater” and said it was a poor attempt to influence Wednesday’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the measure.

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“I will not participate in today’s hearing because it is strictly political theater,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) in a statement. “The timing of the hearing just one day ahead of the Supreme Court’s review of the law suggests that its purpose is either to influence the court’s decision or to garner publicity."

But Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Trump officials move to expand non-ObamaCare health plans | 'Zero tolerance' policy stirs fears in health community | New ObamaCare repeal plan Selling government assets would be a responsible move in infrastructure deal Ignore the naysayers trying to disrupt US diplomacy with North Korea MORE (N.Y.) — who as Democratic chairman of the subcommittee called the hearing — said it was typical of Republicans to pull a no-show, given that they have been largely absent from the debate on immigration reform.

“None of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle came to this hearing. That’s not surprising,” Schumer said. “They’re absent from this hearing just as they’ve been absent from every attempt we’ve made to negotiate a comprehensive solution to our immigration problem.” 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Senate GOP tries to defuse Trump border crisis Dem plays audio from child detention center on Senate floor MORE (R-Texas), the ranking member of the subcommittee, said the hearing was “election-year theater” that would do nothing to help reform the country’s broken immigration system. 

“This is not an attempt at having a sincere hearing on the merits," Cornyn said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the Democrat majority seems to have embraced President Obama's ‘mañana’ approach to immigration reform.” 

Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce (R) is the architect of the controversial law, which requires Arizona law enforcement officers to verify legal status if, after stopping a person for violating a law, they suspect the person of being in the country illegally. 

An officer cannot stop someone based solely on the suspicion of being an illegal immigrant, but Democrats and civil rights groups are concerned the state measure will lead to racial profiling. 

Pearce testified before the subcommittee on Tuesday in favor of the law and said he was “disappointed” that Republicans didn’t show up to support it. He said he would have liked a heads-up from Cornyn or Kyl about the boycott.

“I kind of would have appreciated a phone call,” said Pearce to reporters after the hearing, adding that he was sure the Republicans had their reasons for not attending. “But I’m not one to run from what is the right thing to do.

“We knew this was mostly politics. [Congress doesn’t] have a vote and the Supreme Court does.”

None of the subcommittee’s other Republicans, including Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Markets roiled by Trump's new tariff threat | Trump lashes out at Canada over trade | Warren looks to block Trump pick for consumer agency The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Defiant Trump meets with House GOP amid border blowback Republican senator calls for face-to-face with EPA’s Pruitt MORE (Iowa), Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Overnight Defense: States pull National Guard troops over family separation policy | Senators question pick for Afghan commander | US leaves UN Human Rights Council Senate GOP tries to defuse Trump border crisis MORE (Utah) or Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMadeleine Albright slams Trump over immigration New Hampshire GOP gov: I won’t send National Guard troops to ‘separate families’ Overnight Defense: States pull National Guard troops over family separation policy | Senators question pick for Afghan commander | US leaves UN Human Rights Council MORE (Ala.), attended the hearing.

Schumer and Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinLive coverage: FBI chief, Justice IG testify on critical report Hugh Hewitt to Trump: 'It is 100 percent wrong to separate border-crossing families' Opioid treatment plans must include a trauma-informed approach MORE (Ill.) were the only Democratic members to attend. Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyFBI has no excuse to hide future scandals from American public Live coverage: FBI chief, Justice IG testify on critical report Student rips DeVos at school safety commission for failure to take on guns MORE (D-Vt.), the chairman of the full committee, Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Dem plays audio from child detention center on Senate floor 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families MORE (D-Calif.), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenRichard Painter puts out 'dumpster fire' in first campaign ad Bill Clinton says 'norms have changed' in society for what 'you can do to somebody against their will' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump: `A very great moment in the history of the world’ MORE (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) were also no-shows.

The Supreme Court plans to meet Wednesday for oral arguments on whether it is constitutional for a state to craft its own immigration laws — an act historically reserved for the federal government. The Obama administration sued Arizona after the measure was signed into law in 2010.

Safeguarding against the possibility that the Supreme Court could move to uphold the Arizona law, Schumer said he plans to introduce a measure that would bar states from enacting their own penalties for violators of federal immigration laws.

Schumer’s bill would also prohibit state and local law enforcement from stopping or holding violators of immigration law, unless the officers have been trained as part of a federal enforcement effort. 

The New York Democrat's measure would force lawmakers to take a tough vote on immigration in an election year when both parties are eager to court Latino voters.

Republicans in the upper chamber would likely vote to uphold the Arizona measure despite the strong opposition of Latino groups.

But the GOP could try to turn the tables on Schumer by arguing his bill is another example of Democrats voting to expand the size and power of the federal government at the expense of state and local governments.

Even if it made it out of the Senate, Pearce said there’s no way Schumer’s bill would pass the House’s Republican majority.

Pearce said he supports the vision of de facto Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. But Romney, who said earlier this year that the Arizona law was a “model” for the country, has walked back those comments. His campaign says the former governor was referring to only one of the Arizona law’s 10 provisions, regarding the use of E-verify for employment screenings.

Pearce said he “absolutely” took Romney’s comments at face value.

— Updated at 8:21 p.m.