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Brewer vetoes bill that would criminalize police officers’ enforcement of federal law

Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would made criminals of police officers who enforce controversial provisions of a federal anti-terrorism law.

SB1182 would have made it a Class 1 misdemeanor offense for a police officer to enforce two sections of the recently reauthorized National Defense Authorization Act, a post-9/11 law granting sweeping powers for law enforcement officers. The two sections of NDAA targeted by the bill allow the military to detain people involved in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as well as people who are part of or provide assistance to al-Qaida or the Taliban.

Civil libertarians largely oppose those provisions, which many believe are subject to abuse against U.S. citizens and violate constitutional rights to due process. People held under those provisions can be held in military detention or transferred to other countries.

But Brewer said she opposed the bill because of the tenuous position it put police officers in, and said any future legislation on the topic must have the support of the law enforcement community.

“While I unequivocally support the due process rights of all United States citizens, I cannot support legislation that forces law enforcement – under the threat of criminal penalty – to choose between upholding the Constitution and laws of the United States and abiding by the laws of Arizona,” Brewer wrote.

Sen. Sylvia Allen, the bill’s sponsor, said Brewer’s explanation was contradictory. Allen, R-Snowflake, said the federal law does not clearly define that U.S. citizens have due process under the NDAA, and said she’s concerned the law could infringe on those rights.

“So she’s concerned about law enforcement but she wasn’t concerned about the citizens in Arizona, what would happen to them if they did not have their due process under the Constitution. So I’m very disappointed,” Allen said. “The states have a right to pass laws to protect their citizens, and we’re not servants to the federal government. We’re a sovereign, independent state. And the federal government has their powers derived from the enumerated powers in the Constitution.”

Allen, however, said she didn’t know what would happen if an Arizona law enforcement officer were prosecuted or sanctioned by federal authorities for enforcing SB1182 if it had gone into effect. She argued that states have the authority to refuse to cooperate with federal laws.

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected on several occasions the theory that states can nullify federal laws.

 

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