Legislators like illegal migrants are ignoring laws they don't like
Arizona Republic
Jun. 20, 2007

Laurie Roberts columnist

On Monday, the state Legislature approved a bill aimed at forcing judges to follow the law and deny bail to undocumented immigrants accused of serious crimes.

"Why we have to pass laws to enforce laws is amazing to me," Rep. Russell Pearce said.

It's amazing to me, too. The law, after all, is the law. Which is why I was astonished to read over the weekend that legislative leaders were cooking up a scheme to go home for the summer without adjourning. This, so they won't have to follow the law and give 135,000 Spanish-speaking children in this state a decent education.

Apparently, the laws you like must be followed, but the ones you don't like can be ignored, giving legislators and undocumented immigrants a little something in common, don't you think?

It's been seven years since a federal judge ruled that Arizona is violating federal law by not doing enough to teach kids who are struggling to learn English. The Equal Educational Opportunities Act requires states "to take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation by its students in its instructional programs."

GOP leaders contend they've put enough money into English-learner programs and that they're following the law. But a federal judge disagrees. U.S.
District Court Judge Raner Collins ordered the Legislature to comply with the law in 2005. And in 2006. And yet again in 2007.

In March, he ordered the Legislature to boost funding by the end of the session - or else.

Which is how we come to be hearing about the possibility of not ending this year's legislative session, just suspending it indefinitely.

Of course, that'll never happen because it would mean the zillion or so new laws that they've written this year wouldn't go into effect. But it does say something about our leaders' enthusiasm for enforcing the law.

At least, this law.

"They talk about judicial activism," said House Minority Leader Phil Lopes, D-Tucson. "What we are seeing now is legislative activism because in the case of (Collins') order, they're not sympathetic to the order. They are not sympathetic to the issue. So they're simply ignoring it."

Rightfully so, Pearce says. The Mesa Republican flat out calls Collins'
order unconstitutional, saying the feds have no right to dictate to states how and what they will teach.

"This judge has no authority, no authority at all," he said. "You read to me anywhere in the federal Constitution that even allows the federal government to get involved in education. It's a state issue."

House Speaker Jim Weiers, meanwhile, acknowledges the federal law, just not Collins' ruling that the state isn't following it.

"That's not a law," he said, "that's a judge's opinion."

In other words, they're upholding the law. They just disagree with Collins'
interpretation of what the law requires. Funny, that's exactly what Superior Court judges say about Proposition 100.

Legislative leaders have appealed Collins' order to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which last year erased the judge's previous ruling and wiped out $21 million in fines.

But the appeal hasn't been heard. As of Tuesday, Collins' ruling - the one that says the state continues to deny 135,000 children a decent education and orders the Legislature to fix it before adjournment - stands.

And legislators, so indignant about county judges who ignore the no-bail law, prepare to head home anyway, ignoring a federal judge's order. Which is, like it or not, the law.

Or to put it another way: What part of illegal don't they understand?

Reach Roberts at laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-8635. Read her blog at robertsblog.azcentral.com.