WASHINGTON, D.C. – A hearing of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee responsible for immigration and border security issues was absent any Republican presence today. Members of the GOP decried the panel discussion as a publicity stunt ahead of Supreme Court arguments Wednesday to decide the fate of controversial immigration laws in Arizona and other states.
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., called the meeting “political theater.” The ranking Republican member said in a written statement that his participation was unnecessary given the high court decision to come.
“The failure of Senate Democrats to seek input from any members of the Arizona congressional delegation before scheduling the hearing further demonstrates that it is intended to be more of a spectacle than a forum,” he said.
Subcommittee chairman Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said it is Republicans who refuse to come to the center on the issue.
Schumer was joined by only one other lawmaker for the hearing, fellow Democrat Richard Durbin of Illinois. The two senators say that alongside racial concerns about the state laws, there is a constitutional and practical argument against allowing 50 states to enforce individual immigration policies.
“Immigration is not and never has been an area where states have been able to exercise independent authority,” Schumer said
If the Supreme Court upholds Arizona’s “S.B. 1070″ law, Schumer said, he intends to introduce legislation making it clear that Congress “does not intend” to allow states to develop their own immigration policies.
“This issue is much like federal tax law where the federal Internal Revenue Service interprets and enforces the law,” he said. “As opposed to 50 state agencies going to people’s houses to ensure that they properly file their federal tax returns.”
The high court is expected to issue its ruling on the matter in June.
Despite the lack of Republican presence among the lawmakers today, the panel was not as one-sided. Former Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce was among those to testify. Pearce was an author of S.B. 1070 and told lawmakers that if the federal government had properly enforced standing immigration law, the 2001 terror attacks could have been averted.
“States, such as Arizona, have no choice but to take action to address the adverse effects of the federal government’s failure to enforce the law,” he said.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, was invited to the hearing but did not make an appearance.
As the hearing concluded Schumer acknowledged the lack of conservative represenatation in the chamber. While criticizing what he called the GOP’s apparent “unwillingness” to defend the laws, the senator said he recognized the need to move beyond rhetoric.
“We need people to sit down, people on both sides of the aisle, in a bipartisan way, and solve this problem,” he said. “We have been unable to find negotiating partners.”