Will Tom Campbell Apologize for Failure?

Note: I work as Public Policy Director for the Courage Campaign

In the wake of the Arizona immigration law being signed by their governor, California Republican and US Senate candidate Tom Campbell was quick to announce his support for the law, putting him significantly out of step with public opinion in California and indicating a willingness to let his fellow Californians be subjected to unfair violations of their civil liberties and random searches based on racial profiling.

So the Courage Campaign decided to let Tom Campbell know that Californians didn’t agree with his stance. We joined Rev. Eric Lee of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the California of Federation of Teachers to ask our members to sign a letter to Campbell asking him to withdraw his support for the Arizona law and pledge to not bring such a law to California.

Just a few hours after we deployed our email, Campbell responded directly to us via email:

Had you contacted me, I would have urged you not to fan the flames of this controversy, as you have chosen to do. Your language is inflammatory in the highest degree.

We are all bound by the same federal laws. No state or city has the right to exclude itself from the application of federal law. And if a state wishes to ask its law enforcement agents to help enforce federal law, I don’t see how we can object. After all, the federal government has done a terrible job of enforcing the laws against illegal immigration.

Under Arizona’s law, and under the Constitution as interpreted by Chief Justice Earl Warren in Terry v. Ohio, in 1968, police officers have the right to ask individuals when they have reasonable grounds for suspicion of a law violation. Racial profiling does not constitute reasonable grounds. That was always clear in the new law; but changes adopted yesterday by Arizona make it even more clear. Another change makes even clearer the intent of the original law, that the stop must be for violation of other laws, such as a moving violation in traffic.

Californians, especially, ought to watch the experience of our neighbor state before rushing to condemn it. Like Arizona, California, too, has been burdened by the federal government’s unwillingness to enforce existing laws, and our nation’s sovereignty. “Sanctuary cities,” setting themselves up as immune to federal law, are no more legal than the efforts of “nullification” of federal law tried by southern states before our country’s civil war. And when the federal government fails to enforce the law, it is us, the citizens of the border states, who pay the price. We ought to be free, therefore, to take steps to assist federal enforcement of our nation’s sovereignty, and its borders.

There’s a lot of problematic and flawed arguments here, as Rick Jacobs, Chair of the Courage Campaign, Rev. Eric Lee, and Kenneth Burt, Political Director of the CFT explained in their response letter emailed to Campbell this afternoon:

While we may not agree with you on the specifics of Arizona’s SB 1070 and California “sanctuary cities,” we can surely agree that both policies were the result of failures at the federal level.

After reflecting on the fact that you had 10 years and either a Republican President or Republican Congress with which to fix this growing problem, we decided to give you the benefit of the doubt and research the matter further.

What we found is that in your ten years in Congress, you did not produce comprehensive immigration reform. By failing to lead on this vitally important economic and national security issue, you were part of the problem.

The letter goes on to demand Campbell own up to his failures and apologize for creating this ugly situation:

It seems to us you’re trying to use your own failures as an excuse to lend your name and credentials to an indefensible law, while pandering to extremist elements with hopes that it will help you win an election. But facts, and your own record of outright failure to lead on the issue of immigration, speak much louder than election year pandering.

So now we are calling on you, formally, to apologize to the people of California and America for abdicating your responsibility to fix our immigration system when you had the chance.

The letter also takes issue with Campbell’s other justifications for the Arizona law:

As for SB 1070, you also suggested in your email that “Californians ought to watch the experience of our neighbor state before rushing to condemn it.” It seems to us that Californians unfortunately have a lot of experience with using immigration status as a basis for racial discrimination. We know the division and pain it causes, and therefore have a strong basis to condemn Arizona. That’s why a growing number of Californians, including faith leaders, are calling for Arizona to repeal its law.

You also view the application of legal authority by law enforcement officers from a perspective of privilege. African Americans across the nation, and now Latinos in Arizona, have been victims of documented racial profiling for decades. “Reasonable suspicion” allows for police officers to subjectively determine whether to pull-over or stop a “suspect”. This law is similar to the law enforcement policy that allows police to shoot if they “feel in danger”. This is nothing more than “shoot first, ask questions later”. Already Californians are being targeted by Arizona authorities — just two weeks ago a U.S. citizen from Fresno with dark skin was pulled over and arrested by Arizona police for not having his birth certificate on him.

In other words, racial profiling is already a serious problem. Arizona already settled a lawsuit with the ACLU over rampant racial profiling, and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a noted defender of racial profiling. This is the behavior Campbell is enabling.

We haven’t heard back from Tom Campbell on this most recent letter. But no matter what his response, now isn’t the time to let up. Sign your name to the Courage Campaign/CFT letter and show Tom Campbell that California won’t stand for his defense of the indefensible.

3 thoughts on “Will Tom Campbell Apologize for Failure?”

  1. I’m not going to take on a Stanford law professor over the constitutional issue in the Arizona law.  Perhaps he is right, that the law is constitutional.  That is a rather weak defense of a law–that it does not conflict with the US Constitution.  

    I don’t know how it will be implemented or if it will be implemented, but I know economic scapegoating when I see it.

    It’s not popular to defend illegal aliens these days, but here goes:  I like them.  I admire their courage.  They have a remarkable work ethic. They have the kinds of family values that we could really learn from.  

    And now we blame them for our economic problems.  It makes me sick.  I don’t take issue with Campbell over the constitutionality of the law (others are welcome to try).  I think it’s a pretty big stretch to blame him for the absence of comprehensive immigration reform and to demand an apology from him.  

    I think he’s pandering to the right wing over people who are here because they have an overwhelming desire to feed their families.  I had hoped better from him.

  2. I notice that Campbell’s defense of the law doesn’t address the balance of power between the states and the federal government.  I’d be interested in reading his response to this column, by a lawyer working in immigration law:

    Not Racist, But Not Right

    It’s not whether law enforcement has the right to do what SB1070 specifies, but which law enforcement has that right.  If the Courage Campaign can get a straight answer out of him on that matter, hey, who knows?  Maybe he’ll even give some formal love to marijuana legalization, toward which he’s been more sympathetic than Boxer in the past.  (Not that this is saying much.)

Comments are closed.