O'Malley calls Ariz. law expensive, problematic
In his most extensive comments yet on a debate that is emerging as a campaign issue nationally, Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley predicted Thursday that Arizona’s controversial new immigration law would be “problematic” and costly.
“I believe this law is problematic in the long term, especially as it will inevitably be applied,” O'Malley told Washington radio station WTOP.
The Arizona law, which takes effect this month, requires police in that border state to determine the immigration status of a suspect they have stopped for any reason if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the individual is in the country illegally.
Polls indicate the law is popular both in Maryland and nationwide. Supporters describe it as a necessary response to the failure of the federal government to secure the borders
Critics say the law will lead to racial profiling. The Justice Department filed a lawsuit last week seeking to stop Arizona from enforcing it.
O'Malley said border protection was the responsibility of the federal government, not the states.
“We cannot substitute for a lack of federal enforcement by turning all municipal, county and state police into a giant immigration service, nor do we have the money to create large detention camps to hold people until they can prove their citizenship,” he said.
Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., O'Malley's likely opponent this fall, expressed support this week for the Arizona law.
“It's no surprise, but I oppose what the Justice Department has done,” Ehrlich said. He said the “wholesale failure of federal policy” gave state leaders the right to try to address immigration on their own.
O'Malley has offered mild support for the federal lawsuit, saying President Barack Obama is taking a “principled stand.” He reiterated that position on the radio show.
But at a National Governors Association conference last weekend in Boston, O'Malley was among the elected officials apprehensive about the lawsuit, according to the New York Times. The Times said several Democratic governors were concerned about the timing of the lawsuit during what is already expected to be a difficult election cycle for their party.
O'Malley and six other Democratic governors are seeking reelection this fall.
O'Malley told WTOP’s Mark Segraves that he had expressed concerns privately at the governors meeting that debating immigration moves the discussion away from the subject voters want to talk about: creating and saving jobs.
“Any issue that does not address that concern distracts us from what people want us to be working on,” he told Segraves, characterizing his concerns.
O'Malley said that Maryland's policy had been to have federal immigration authorities work with local police departments “from time to time.”
“I believe that the Arizona policy is much more of a blanket approach that leads our country down a path of requiring people to carry citizenship papers or face an indeterminate amount of detention before any sort of trial,” O'Malley said.