This vote was on whether to suspend the Senate’s rules on when amendments can be offered, and allow Jim DeMint, R-S.C., to offer an amendment. DeMint wanted to offer an amendment that would have sent a bill extending unemployment insurance benefits back to the Judiciary Committee to add language that would prohibit any federal legal action being taken to invalidate Arizona’s controversial new laws governing how police check people's immigration status.
The Arizona law in question is intended to stem the tide of illegal immigration in the state. Primarily the controversial new law requires police officers to determine peoples’ immigration status, if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country illegally. The Obama administration has challenged the law the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. DeMint’s amendment was intended to prohibit that lawsuit from going forward.
Opponents of the law said that it amounts to allowing racial profiling, while supporters of the law said it is perfectly legal and intended as a way to ensure that illegal immigrants are not allowed to roam freely.
DeMint said he read the law and “much of what has been reported in the media is completely false.” DeMint said his reading of the law is that it simply requires enforcing existing federal immigration laws.
“There is nothing in it about racial profiling, except that we cannot do it, and we cannot stop someone if we suspect them of being illegal. We can only ask for documentation if we stop them or arrest them for some other crime. This is, in effect, the Federal law,” DeMint said. “It is interesting that the Obama administration is suing Arizona for enforcing Federal law while ignoring many sanctuary cities that openly flaunt their resistance to Federal law. It makes no sense in a free country, in a democracy where we are built on the rule of law, for the Federal Government to try to intimidate the people of Arizona who are only trying to protect themselves.”
No one spoke against the motion or the amendment except obliquely. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., complained that Republicans insisted on debating items that were not related to putting people back to work – including this immigration-related amendment.
By a vote of 43-55, the motion to allow the amendment was rejected. All but two Republicans present voted to allow the amendment. All but five Democrats present voted against allowing the amendment. The end result is that the motion was defeated and an amendment to prohibit any federal lawsuits challenging Arizona’s immigration law was not allowed to be offered to a bill that would extend unemployment benefits.