Journalist Howard Fischer has been covering Arizona state government since 1982. He joins Fresh Air to discuss Arizona's controversial immigration law, and other recent bills passed in the state, including one that allows Arizona's citizens to carry concealed weapons without a permit.
Arizona recently passed the strictest immigration law in the country. The measure requires authorities to question anyone suspected of being in the United States illegally.
The law, which has drawn several legal challenges across the state, has also triggered protests and boycotts across the country. Officials in St. Paul, Minn., and San Francisco have banned their employees from traveling to Arizona for business -- and thousands of people have attended rallies in Los Angeles and Phoenix to protest the immigration legislation.
In an interview on Fresh Air, journalist Howard Fischer explains that immigration is not the only law conservative lawmakers in the state have tackled since Gov. Jan Brewer took office in January 2009. In the recent legislative session, sweeping changes affecting environmental policies, gun control regulations and laws funding abortions have been passed by Republican lawmakers.
Fischer discusses the nuances of Arizona's new immigration law and details the other controversial bills recently passed in the state. Fischer, who has been covering Arizona state government since 1982, reports for Capitol Media Services, a wire service based in Arizona. His reports can frequently be heard on KNAU, Arizona Public Radio.
On the shift in Arizona's political landscape since Gov. Brewer took office
"There's definitely a shift [in Arizona's political landscape] since Brewer took office. In fact, some of the bills that are being signed now are ones that Gov. Napolitano did veto. ... Janet Napolitano took a much more liberal view of the role of government and individual rights. And so, these are bills that have been pent up. Six years of Janet Napolitano has left a lot of very frustrated Republican lawmakers. You have to remember, the legislature's been in Republican hands pretty much steadily since the 1960s without exception, but we have elected Democratic governors. But now, because of this peculiar accident -- when Janet Napolitano became the secretary of Homeland Security -- Jan Brewer became governor. No one elected Jan Brewer governor, but she's the governor now and the Republican legislature is determined to take advantage of that because it might not last."
On the new law that says teaching hatred of any other race is banned in Arizona
"One of the larger school districts in the state -- Tuscon -- has an ethnic studies program. The idea behind it, according to the proponents, is that you build a certain amount of pride among the Hispanic students. The concern has been, somehow instead of building ethnic pride, it's building an ethnic solidarity and perhaps reverse racism. The legislature has enacted a bill which says you cannot teach hatred of any other race, which sounds great on paper -- and Tuscon School District insists they're not doing that now. The devil is in the details and we're going to see what happens, because the state superintendent has already said if the Tuscon program continues under this new law, he will take them to court and he will take them apart."
On Arizona's new immigration rules
"If the federal government isn't going to the job -- if they're not going to add more border patrols, if they're not going to do more to catch illegals -- that the state should do something. And remember, this isn't the first time Arizona has done something. Remember, back in 2006, Arizona enacted the first ever Employer Sanctions Law, which makes it a state crime for a state employee to knowingly hire an undocumented worker. This is the result of years of frustration." Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.