Arizona immigration-law author jokes Obama doesn’t ‘have papers’

Liz Goodwin

The author of Arizona's contested immigration law, state Sen. Russell Pearce, joked in a talk Wednesday that the best thing about the new law is Obama won't visit his state "because you have to have papers now."

Pearce said the comment was a moment of "levity" in his talk to the conservative Judicial Watch group. But polling shows that a significant chunk of the American population actually does doubt Obama was born in the United States, a requirement to serve as president. This misperception can be credited in part to the "birther" movement, a fringe group that insists against all evidence that Obama's Hawaii birth certificate is forged.

Either way, the portion of the law that requires law enforcement officers to check immigration status during stops has been struck down by a federal judge. The state is appealing. Several states may pass similar legislation.

In the speech, Pearce also attacked an NPR investigation that showed that the private prison industry helped write Arizona's immigration law and donated cash to many of the lawmakers who sponsored it. "It was an absolute lie," he said.

He touted a report that 100,000 Latinos left Arizona since the law passed and said he has heard anecdotally that violent crime is down in some cities. An Arizona Republic report in May found that crime in Arizona border cities was actually low and falling, instead of on the rise as Pearce and other lawmakers claimed in the run-up to passing SB1070.

(Photo of Pearce: AP)