Temperatures soared to 103 degrees in Phoenix on Thursday, but some Tennessee Republicans were taking heat on their home turf.
The legislators are on a scheduled trip to Arizona today to offer Gov. Jan Brewer support for her state's toughest-in-the-nation immigration law.
Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, issued a statement blasting his GOP counterparts for political "pandering" by going on the trip instead of focusing on job creation in the Volunteer State.
"Apparently Tennessee Republicans think political junkets to Arizona are more important than unemployment in their own districts," Stewart said.
The delegation, which includes two state senators and seven House members, is set to present Brewer with a nonbinding resolution from the Tennessee General Assembly in support of Arizona's effort to crack down on illegal immigration, said the measure's prime sponsor, Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas.
One of those traveling to the Arizona capital, Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, said Stewart's criticism is an "irresponsible response from a liberal."
"A lot of unemployment is caused by illegal immigration," Cobb said.
The Arizona law would have made it a state crime to be in the country without authorization and would have allowed police to check the papers of people they stop or arrest. However, a federal judge on Wednesday issued an order halting much of the crackdown, including sections requiring officers to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws.
Stewart also complained that the resolution cost $500 to bring forward during the legislative session and "does absolutely nothing to address Tennessee's illegal immigration issues."
Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro
Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin
Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas
Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City
Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga
Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City
Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport
Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster
Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis
CLOSER TO HOME
By a 4-1 margin, Tennesseans favor bringing Arizona's immigration measure to the Volunteer State, according to a Mason-Dixon poll for the Chattanooga Times Free Press and other papers in Tennessee. The poll found that 72 percent of voters would support enacting a law requiring people stopped by police to prove they are in the country legally.
Carr argued that the $500 figure is inaccurate since the legislative staff members who researched and drafted the document were paid for a full day's work whether they created this resolution or a different one. He said the only expense to taxpayers is the price of the ink and paper to print the copy being presented to Brewer.
"Great, I'll give the state two bucks," he said.
Cobb said the lawmakers are paying for the trip out of their own pockets. The cost of the flight from Nashville to Phoenix on Southwest Airlines is $400, he said, and the hotel rooms are $100 each. The group is scheduled to return Saturday.
Carr said the lawmakers negotiated a group rate at the airport Doubletree hotel.
Cobb said the delegation hopes to pick up suggestions while in Arizona, especially on how to prevent racial profiling, which they can use in crafting a measure similar to Arizona's when the General Assembly next meets in January.
Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, who also is traveling to Phoenix today, has said he wants to do "something meaningful" at the legislature to address illegal immigration.
"I would like to see more stringent penalties for those who hire the illegal (immigrants), those who rent to them, those who provide haven cities or ministries for them," he said in a previous Chattanooga Times Free Press story.
Georgia lawmakers also are considering legislation next year similar to Arizona's.
Senate Transportation Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, has said he will co-author legislation to strengthen immigration laws.
"Those who are residing illegally are breaking the law and utilizing resources that should be for those who obtain legal residency," Mullis said. "Businesses, local governments and our university system must comply with federal and state illegal immigration laws to relieve wasteful spending and get legal residents and Georgians back to work."
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