Arizona cities rebuff anti-illegal immigrant watchdog group
PHOENIX (AP) - An illegal immigration watchdog group wants cities in northwest Arizona to punish landlords and business leaders if they open their doors to people who sneaked across the border.
The Mohave County Minutemen has been lobbying Lake Havasu City, Kingman and Bullhead City to craft immigration laws similar to one passed in Hazelton, Penn.
That law, which has been challenged in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union and Hispanic groups, fines landlords $1,000 if they rent to illegal immigrants and denies business permits to companies that give them jobs.
``If you look at the cities that have taken this on, the (illegal immigrants) are leaving,'' said Virginia Hilton, co-founder of the Mohave County Minutemen. ``They're going to go somewhere they feel safe.''
Hilton, who formed the group four months ago, said Mohave County doesn't have as much of a problem with illegal immigration as other parts of the state. But she said the county needs to get tough now to keep illegal immigrants out.
``Many of us came here from California,'' said Hilton, who moved to Bullhead City from Lancaster, Calif. ``We saw it (illegal immigration) get continually worse there, and we want to prevent it from becoming a problem here.''
Lake Havasu City, Kingman and Bullhead City have rebuffed the group's proposal. City authorities say it's the job of the federal government to police the borders.
``A lot of their complaints are legitimate,'' Bullhead City Mayor Diane Vick said. ``It's frustrating that the federal government is not doing anything about it.''
The Bullhead City Council decided not to follow the Mohave County Minutemen proposal earlier this month. About a dozen from Hilton's group sat in the courtyard outside the city administration building overnight to protest the decision.
Meanwhile, Kingman Mayor Les Byram said he won't put the proposal on the city's agenda, and the Lake Havasu City attorney has recommended leaving it alone.
Around Arizona and the rest of the country, city leaders have been haggling over their role in combating illegal immigration.
In Prescott, Ariz., City Attorney Gary Kidd said he's watching the Hazelton case as a test for how much municipalities can get involved in protecting America's borders.
Immigration is the bailiwick of federal government, Kidd said. But ``I seriously doubt there's a federal attorney representing the Department of Justice that would argue that local governments don't have the right to regulate businesses that are operating in their community.''
Meanwhile, Prescott's City Council has proposed a resolution that calls on federal and state authorities to keep a closer watch on the borders and stem the ``flood of illegal immigrants, criminals and terrorists.''
Now that her group has been rejected by cities, Hilton said her group may press the Mohave County Board of Supervisors to write a similar law.
``This has nothing to do with race,'' she said. ``It's against the law to hire illegals, and nobody is doing anything about that.''