Matlock To Arizona

Lenoir City lawmaker joins Tennessee delegation praising Arizona immigration law
By HANA KIM 6 News Reporter

LENOIR CITY (WATE) - Nine Tennessee lawmakers will travel to Arizona on Friday to show their support for Arizona's controversial immigration law.

The group will present a copy of a resolution passed by the Tennessee General Assembly earlier this year that praises Arizona lawmakers for enacting the law.

The Arizona law is now under appeal after a federal judge's order Wednesday put several key parts of the law on hold.

The sections under the injunction include a requirement for immigrants to carry their papers.

Another provision of the law on hold calls for law officers to check on a person's immigration status when enforcing other laws.

Less contentious parts of the law were allowed to take effect Thursday.

State Rep. Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City) is one of the lawmakers planning to make the trip to Arizona. 

Matlock says his district has seen a large increase in its Latino population, but immigration reform is vital for all of Tennessee.

"We believe in Tennessee, I think, the polls show overwhelmingly that the law has to be enforced," said Matlock.

Matlock says the federal government is not doing its job of hammering down a rule already on the books.

"The federal government is picking what they want to enforce," he said. "That should scare us all."

On their trip to Arizona the lawmakers want to brainstorm the best immigration bill for Tennessee that could pass a legal test.

"We hope to mirror [Arizona's law] asking people for proof of status once they are in the act or being accused of the act," said Matlock.

Opponents of Arizona's law from across the country say they are convinced the kind of questioning officers are required to make could lead to racial profiling.

"We would never go the profiling route and that's something I would support," said Matlock.

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of East Tennessee emphasized Thursday that immigration reform is needed, but warned against radical and drastic measures.

The group says Tennessee's immigration issues are different from Arizona's. Right now, it says, lawmakers should be focused on the economy.

State Sen. Eric Stewart (D-Belvidere) had harsher words for the lawmakers headed to Arizona.

"Apparently Tennessee Republicans think political junkets to Arizona are more important than unemployment in their own districts," Stewart said. "I get angry when lawmakers take the people they represent for fools and just downright lie to them about the facts. Make no mistake this trip is all about politics and pandering. The resolution commends Arizona's immigration law, but does absolutely nothing to address Tennessee's illegal immigration issues."

Matlock says he and others are working hard to find the best solution to Tennessee's immigration problem. He believes it's a pressing problem that needs to be addressed sooner, rather than later.

Matlock, delegation head to AZ on "Praising Arizona" mission group of Tennessee legislators expect to leave Friday on a fact finding and proposal praising mission to Arizona.

The delegation of nine Tennessee House Republicans includes Lenoir City's Jimmy Matlock.

"In 2006, when I ran for this position with the state, I heard about this constantly, here in Monroe County where we are and in Lenoir City where I live," Matlock said.

Soon after being elected, a poll of Matlock's constituents found 89% wanted changes to the way immigration laws work in Tennessee.

"The federal government already had the law on the books, they know what they wanted they just didn't enforce it," Matlock said.

Friday, the Tennessee delegation hopes to land in Arizona where they'll present Governor Jan Brewer with a resolution praising Arizona's illegal immigration bill.  

The lawmakers are paying for the trip out of their own pockets, no taxpayer money will be used.

"We want that too, we want that same thing," Matlock said.

That resolution passed the Tennessee House of Representatives, but did not get Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen's signature.  Bredesen told several media sources he did not see the point in signing it.

Matlock says they're also hoping to find out what parts of the Arizona law they can bring back and consider in Nashville next legislative session.

The Monroe County and Loudon County Representative expects a similar bill to become law next year.

"We'll have a bill introduced on the first day, first day," Matlock said.  "The people speak and we respond and on this issue, I think it'll be overwhelming."

Critics of the law have called it racist, profiling, and possibly damaging to the state's economy.

Many feared tourists would shy away from Tennessee if the state took a stance similar to Arizona.

However, Matlock believes those arguments are an attempt to blur the issue and says so far, Arizona hasn't seen much of a drop-off in tourism as they work to enforce the law.

"To say that we don't know the difference between legal and illegal is completely inaccurate and I think the people that I serve in Monroe and Loudon Counties can discern very quickly right is right and wrong is wrong, there shouldn't be a blur," Matlock said.