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Tongue Lashing

What's the matter, Arizona Legislature? Don't you understand English? U.S. District Judge Raner Collins slapped lawmakers for failing to fund a plan for educating kids who don't speak English five years after the courts ruled that the state wasn't spending enough.

If lawmakers don't come up with acceptable legislation by the end of January, the state is facing daily fines of $500,000, with the cost rising to as much as $2 million a day if the session ends without a plan.

GOP legislation to settle the lawsuit, which dates back to 1992, was vetoed by Gov. Janet Napolitano earlier this year. Napolitano has offered an alternative plan with a cost that climbs to $185 million annually by 2009.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne announced he would appeal Collins' decision, complaining that much of the burden of educating students who don't speak English is the result of the federal government's failure to secure the border.


Jim Kolbe, Unplugged

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a get-tough-on-illegal-immigration package last week that included a plan to build a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border between Douglas and Calexico, Calif. The legislation, now headed to the Senate, includes no provision for a guest-worker program.

While we could make all sorts of smart-aleck observations, we'll instead turn the mic over to Congressman Jim Kolbe, who is growing increasingly candid as his retirement nears. On the House floor, Kolbe unloaded with:

... (I)n my part of the country, we know what illegal immigration means, so I will listen with a mixture of anger and amusement to all the things said here today by all the experts who for more than a decade have paid no attention to the complaints and the cries of alarm from those of us along the border.

Unfortunately, the bill before us today does nothing to solve the real problems of immigration. In fact, it's worse than nothing. It's worse than nothing because it tries to fool the public. It pulls the wool over their eyes. It pretends we are doing something to secure our border when in fact we are doing nothing except throw words and money at the problem.

Anyone who really cares about a solution to our immigration woes knows that border enforcement is one prong of a three-part solution. The first is enforcement--border enforcement and employer enforcement. Second, you also must have some means of allowing those who want to work, and are willing to work, to come legally into the United States to work on a temporary basis.

And thirdly, you have to deal with the 10, 11, 12 million people who are already in this country illegally. Now that's the reality.

But the bill brought to the House today is an amnesty bill. Now that's our dark little secret, the unspoken truth that no one wants to talk about.

Why do I say that? Because if you really are for enforcement, you have to get those 11 million people out of the country. We have to round them up, apprehend them, ship them back home.

But this bill doesn't do that. It ignores the problem. The committee knows that. The leadership knows that. But we are going to go down this path, continue this charade, continue lying to the American people, continue pretending we are doing something to prevent illegal immigration.

The real question, Mr. Speaker, is when will this body have a serious dialogue about immigration issues? When will we engage with each other and the American people on this difficult problem?

We can only hope ... someday soon. But not today, Mr. Speaker, not today. Not with this bill. Not with this rule.

Sing it, sister!


Wright Stuff

Amphi School Board member Nancy Young Wright announced plans to run for mayor of Oro Valley against incumbent Paul Loomis.

"I'm not running against Paul," said Wright, "but for the town. I don't have anything personal against him. I just have been disappointed in the way he hasn't stood up for the citizens."

Wright has been "irritated" by recent actions of the council, including that sweet giveaway to commercial developer Vestar, which allows the company to keep millions in sales taxes over the next couple of decades. She's also bugged by the town's efforts to use technicalities to block a referendum that would let Oro Valley voters decide whether the incentive plan is a such a hot idea.

Longtime TW readers will recall that Wright led the way in reforming an out-of-touch, self-serving school board after her 1996 election. Within four years, all of the members who had been on the board when she took office had been unseated in a regular election or booted in a recall, in large part because Wright blew the whistle on insider dealing.

Wright worries that the same thing is happening in Oro Valley.

"They make crummy decisions and keep on denying people their right to participate," she says. "I think it's time for regime change."

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