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Ref: Arizona votes to create citizen responder corps

Yuma Sun

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State Senate OKs volunteer Homeland Security Force

March 2, 2007 - 9:11PM
State senators voted to set up an all-volunteer Homeland Security Force separate from the Arizona National Guard.

But exactly who could join and what they would do remains unspecified.

SB 1132, given preliminary approval Thursday, would create what essentially amounts to a state militia, under the control of the governor. Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, who crafted the measure, said they would be able to respond, on Napolitano's orders, to any natural or human-caused disaster.

Harper said they also would be available to be deployed along the border to help spot people coming into the country illegally.

Harper was one of the first lawmakers to push to expand the Guard presence in Southern Arizona, years before Gov. Janet Napolitano gave her consent.

While the Senate was debating this measure, the House was giving preliminary approval to legislation which would make it a crime for people to stand on street corners and sidewalks while offering to work. That bill also would criminalize remaining on private property while looking for work.

Nothing in the legislation specifically mentions illegal immigrants. But Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said it is particularly aimed at "day laborers,'' people who congregate around home improvement stores hoping to get a job for the day - many who are not in this country legally.

Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix, argued that HB 2589 is an unconstitutional infringement on First Amendment rights to assemble.

But Kavanagh said courts have upheld restrictions on individual rights if there is a legitimate reason. And Kavanagh said his bill would allow police to make arrests only if people are "disrupting vehicle or pedestrian traffic.''

Harper said the state needs a Homeland Security Force because Congress last year authorized the president to commandeer any state's National Guard in times of emergency, even without permission from the governor. That action was in direct response to the refusal of Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco to allow her state's Guard troops to be federalized in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Harper said he envisions some sort of uniform, if for no other reason than to be able to tell at the scene of a disaster who is part of the militia and who is not. And he said the officers of the militia would have to have prior military experience.

Copyright © 2007 The Yuma Sun

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