Kokkonen, Waterfield support Arizona illegal immigration law

Two candidates seeking to replace Sam Blakeslee in the state Assembly are backing the immigration law that Arizona has passed.

“The new Arizona law should be a model for every state, including California,” said San Luis Obispo financial planner Matt Kokkonen.

“As the federal government refuses to exercise its constitutional duty to secure our borders, the states — who are bearing the enormous costs of illegal immigration — must step in,” he wrote in a news release.

Another Republican candidate, Etta Waterfield of Santa Maria, said “I fully support the Arizona law giving state law enforcement personnel the ability to detain illegal immigrants.”

Arizona state officials say the state was forced to act because the federal government has abdicated its responsibilities to bring about immigration reform.

The law has created a national furor and already has drawn legal challenges.

Kokkonen and Waterfield, a former Santa Maria Planning Commissioner, are running against San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Katcho Achadjian and Paso Robles City Councilman Fred Strong in the GOP primary for the 33rd Assembly District.

Achadjian and Strong did not respond to requests for comment. But in an e-mail, Waterfield expressed her support for Arizona’s law.

“As a strict constitutionalist,” she said, “I also believe we need to be careful not to violate the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unwarranted searches and seizures. From reading the bill it appears that this has been addressed.”

Waterfield added that “the Arizona law simply codifies the federal law into state law so that state law enforcement can act to detain illegal immigrants.”

However, Santa Maria City Councilwoman Hilda Zacarias, the lone Democrat in the Assembly race, said California should “absolutely not” follow Arizona’s lead.

She said that the new Arizona law means that “everywhere in the U.S. except Arizona we have freedom of movement. That’s not America.”

Zacarias agreed that the federal government has failed to solve what she considers a complex problem, and it needs to focus on comprehensive immigration reform.

Zacarias, Kokkonen, Waterfield, Strong and Achadjian are seeking to replace Blakeslee, who cannot run again for the 33rd Assembly District because of term limits. He announced Thursday that he is seeking the 15th District state Senate seat that was just vacated by Abel Maldonado, who became lieutenant governor. Libertarian Paul Polson also is on the ballot.

Blakeslee told The Tribune on Thursday that he opposes Arizona’s law and rather favors a comprehensive overhaul of immigration policies.

The Arizona law requires police “when practicable” to stop and check the legal status of people they “reasonably suspect” may be illegal immigrants.

The law has come under heavy attack from constitutional scholars who say it violates the “probable cause” part of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S Constitution.

The Fourth Amendment says: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Critics say the new law will lead to Hispanics, citizens or not, being accosted simply because they are Hispanic, a practice known as racial profiling.

However, Kokkonen, like Waterfield, said it does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

“We are actually importing Mexico’s criminal gang and drug wars into the United States by refusing to control the border and allow local enforcement officers to arrest anyone in this country illegally,” wrote Kokkonen, who as a young man emigrated from Finland.

Kokkonen said illegal immigration is costing California billions of dollars a year.

“Our cities — like Santa Maria — are being turned into gang-infested jungles, our schools, hospitals, and emergency rooms are overwhelmed. Enough is enough,” he wrote.