TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - On Thursday afternoon Tucson area congressman Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) will help lead a congressional hearing on immigration enforcement. Among the issues to be examined is the effect that Arizona's immigration crackdown might have on families. Grijalva is specifically looking at the controversial immigration sweeps conducted by flamboyant Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and will examine what life will look like if more law enforcement officers begin to conduct similar sweeps under the terms of SB 1070.
Whatever the hearing finds, it's likely to fall on deaf ears as far as Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is concerned. In an interview with KGUN9 News on the eve of the hearing, Governor Brewer's message was clear: if you're here illegally, go back home. Her answer does not change in the case of families who might be separated by deportation or repatriation. Brewer said, "It is illegal to trespass into our country. It has always been illegal. And people have determined they want to take that chance, that responsibility.... They made a decision. And you pay those consequences, unfortunately."
One of the witnesses Grijalva will present is Silvia Rodriguez of Phoenix. Her parents brought her to Arizona when she was 2 years old. According to Rodriguez, they overstayed their visas. She graduated from ASU and was recently accepted into Harvard grad school. With the passage of SB 1070, she could face arrest and jail time in Arizona. But she knows nothing about the country of her birth.
Rodriguez gave KGUN9 News a preview of what she'll say to Congress. "We're asking for an opportunity to be able to live in this country without fear. To be able to contribute. To be able to get an education. To receive medical attention if we're dying and something is wrong with us. We're asking to be respected and to just be acknowledged as human beings." Rodriguez is specifically interested in passage of the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for students in her situation.
Rodriguez said her family is already dealing with separation. Out of fear that they might get caught up in one of Sheriff Arpaio's immigration raids, her parents left the state, leaving her behind to finish her education. According to Rep. Grijalva, the separation left her homeless.
Governor Brewer was not familiar with her specific case. But the family separation argument drew no sympathy from her. She told KGUN9 News, "It won't tear families apart. They can take their children back with them."
As for Sheriff Arpaio, the man whose practices will be in the spotlight Thursday afternoon, the family separation issue does not sway him either. Arpaio told KGUN9 News, "I feel sad for that situation. But let's not forget the 10,000 people I have in jail. What about all those parents that are in jail that have been taken away from their kids? No one seems to care about the homes being broken up by other people who have committed violations of law. It's a sad situation, not only for the illegal immigration situation. It's a sad situation for all those people who are taken away from their kids because they violated the law."
But Congressman Grijalva is hopeful the hearing will make a difference. He told KGUN9 News, "The situation requires much more than platitudes. It requires much more than slogans. It requires much more than soundbites. It's about conflict. It's about human beings. I think we need to quit dealing with this issue as not just a political football to kick back and forth, but the very lives we're affecting on a daily basis for millions upon millions of people in this country."
In a related development, Governor Brewer told KGUN9 News that a border security inspection visit by White House emissaries that President Obama promised her would happen by Thursday has been delayed. But she remains optimistic that it will take place
Grijalva's hearing begins at 3:00 PM Eastern time, which corresponds to noon Arizona time.