Former Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, the architect of Arizona's controversial immigration law S.B. 1070, left, accompanied by former Arizona Sen. Dennis DeConcini, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 24, 2012, before the Senate Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee hearing entitled "Examining the Constitutionality and Prudence of State and Local Governments Enforcing Immigration Law." The Supreme Court will referee another major clash between the Obama administration and the states Wednesday as it hears arguments over Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigrants. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rebuffing challenges from a senior U.S. senator, the author of Arizona’s immigration law defended both the legality and the wisdom of his measure.

Former state Sen. Russell Pearce testified today before a U.S. Senate Judiciary subcommittee that Arizona lawmakers chose to act in 2010 after it became clear the federal government was not adequately enforcing federal immigration laws.

He told panel members — at least the two who attended — SB 1070 does not regulate immigration but instead uses the state’s “inherent police power” to regulate those not in the country legally “consistent with the objectives of federal law.”

It is not Congress, though, that Pearce needs to convince. The real legal battle unfolds Wednesday when the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the question of whether four key sections of the law illegally tread into areas reserved for the federal government.

But today’s hearing and Wednesday’s court arguments clearly are linked. In fact, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who chairs the panel — and purposely scheduled the hearing for just before the Supreme Court arguments — said if the justices do not strike down the Arizona law, he will introduce legislation to spell out clearly that only Congress can adopt immigration restrictions — and that states can act only with “an explicit agreement with the federal government and are being supervised and trained by federal officials.”

“States like Arizona and Alabama will no longer be able to get away with saying they are simply ‘helping the federal government’ to enforce the law when they are really writing their own laws and knowingly deploying untrained officers with a mission of arresting anyone and everyone who might fit the preconceived profile of an illegal immigrant,” he said.

Schumer’s chances of getting such a bill through a Republican-controlled House are minimal. But the legislation might serve Democratic political goals by forcing GOP lawmakers to take an election-year stance on the issue.

The issue of racial profiling was central to today’s hearing.

Read the rest of this story in Wednesday's Star.