FROM THE RIGHT: AMNESTY FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS!At first glance, the U.S. Senate's immigration-reform package strikes us as tougher than the STRIVE Act that's currently in the House of Representatives. It's certainly less migrant-friendly than the McCain-Kennedy plan that passed the Senate last year.
Arizona's junior senator, Jon Kyl (the one who still shows up for Senate votes), is taking a lot of heat for his role in negotiating this year's model with Sen. Ted Kennedy and the Bush administration. The plan includes more border security, a $5,000 fine for illegal immigrants now in the states, a guest-worker program, a convoluted path to citizenship that includes a trip back to the country of origin, and so much more that it takes more than 700 pages to lay it all out.
That $5,000 fine--which is only $500 in the STRIVE Act--seems mighty steep for low-wage workers, but the outliers on the right--we're looking your way, Don Goldwater/Russell Pearce/Mothers Against Illegal Aliens--still call it amnesty.
Frankly, we're still trying to riddle out why Goldwater, who got his ass handed to him in last year's GOP gubernatorial primary, thinks he can dictate immigration policy to Kyl. We imagine if Kyl needs help setting up chairs for a rally, Goldwater--whose last real job was a waste of tax dollars, coordinating special events for the state--might be the go-to guy. When it comes to illegal immigration, Don should do us all a favor and just shut his piehole.
GOP state chair Randy Pullen, who just last month said President Bush could count on Republicans to "stand tall" with him against Democrats who wanted to surrender on border security, had to shoot off his mouth, too. Pullen is complaining that the Senate plan is "overcomplicated" and amounts to little more than "new bureaucracy and window-dressing."
Pullen has a less-complicated solution, although people in the reality-based world might find it less than feasible: Build a fence, use more technology on the border, hire more Border Patrol agents, yadda, yadda, yadda. Pullen said illegal immigrants now in the country shouldn't be allowed to stay, but he didn't say whether all 12 million--or whatever the number is--should be rounded up, or if the government should just start busting businesses that hire them so they fire all the undocumented workers, who then self-deport.
But one thing seems sure: The White House shouldn't be expecting any more of that "standing tall" stuff.
While a good chunk of Arizona's right wing is dissing Kyl as a traitorous sellout for his role in crafting the legislation, he's getting some cover from the business community.
Ann Seiden of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry tells The Skinny that while the organization is still sorting through the details of the legislation, Kyl deserved credit for being part of the negotiations.
"We are very supportive of the fact that Sen. Kyl has taken a strong leadership approach on this," Seiden says. "He could have sat on the sidelines, but instead, he took a role of leadership."
Although some backers of the legislation were pushing for a vote by Memorial Day, it now appears that senators actually want to debate the measure. Amazing!
FROM THE LEFT: ASSAULT ON ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS!The left has its own problems with the Senate plan. Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in an play for the hearts and minds of her GOP-leaning border district, says she supports it. But Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva--who reluctantly supports the STRIVE Act--says the Senate proposal is too tough on issues such as family reunification.
But some lib groups are taking a tack similar to that of the business community and calling it a good first step. The Pima County Interfaith Council says the Senate plan is a good start for the debate.
The Rev. Robin Hoover, who spearheads Humane Borders, agrees that the plan is a starting point, but suggests that it doesn't make much sense to delay creating a guest-worker program until after more walls are built and more agents are hired.
"It's a police power grab as far as I'm concerned," Hoover says. "I get real Cato Institute/libertarian on some of this shit. I've got a civil-liberties streak a mile wide."
Hoover says a guest-worker program would reduce the need for "the largest militarization of the border that we've ever seen" because it would reduce the economic incentive to illegally enter the United States.
Hoover warns that if the military buildup continues without a guest-worker program, more people are going to die crossing the desert. "Increased militarization of the border leads to more migrant deaths," he says.
Not all that incidentally: Derechos Humanos reported last week that between Oct. 1, 2006, and April 30 of this year, 84 bodies of border crossers had been found in the Arizona desert. That's up from 79 in the same period last year.
Hoover has one of the better ideas we've heard: Create a guest-worker program which requires foreign workers to post a bond upon entry and to put 20 percent of their earnings into an account under the supervision of Uncle Sam. They don't get the money unless they turn in their visa and leave the country.
"If you're coming here from Sinaloa, and you're a welder making $15 an hour welding farm equipment or something, you're making $30,000 a year," he says. "That's $6,000 a year added to your deposit. You've got a big chuck of change to motivate you to comply and go home."
DOLLARS AND NONSENSEAs we mentioned last week, Arizona House Speaker Jim Weiers was expected to have some trouble getting his budget passed. As we went to press, the budget--which would spend less on social programs and cut more taxes than the Senate alternative--was killed on the House floor, with only 27 members supporting it, and 31 opposed.
But it didn't take long to come back from the dead after Republican leaders managed to persuade Rep. Trish Groe to move for reconsideration. The budget was expected to come up for another vote on Tuesday, May 22--and again, our deadline prevents us from telling you what happened with it. So we'll provide you with a choose-your-own-analysis game.
If the budget passes: The pundits thought House Speaker Weiers was a bumbling goof, but it turns out he's a political mastermind, resurrecting a budget everyone had left for dead.
If the budget fails: House Speaker Weiers' final bid to come off as a political mastermind was flushed down the toilet when he wasted a week of his caucus' time trying to pass a doomed budget. Turns out he's just a bumbling goof.
Meanwhile, the Senate budget sailed across the finish line and is moving toward the House. We've heard all sorts of stories about what happens next, from a straight-up vote to endless parliamentary maneuvering. Guess it depends on how soon the House leadership wants to get done with the session.
Gratuitous cross-marketing plug: Breaking details of the budget fight can be found at blog.tucsonweekly.com.
WORK DETAILOne major detail still needs to be worked out at the Capitol: Rep. Russell Pearce's employer sanctions package, which passed the House back in mid-March, has stalled in the Senate. We hear it may turn back up this week with significant changes.
Pearce's bill, which would hit business owners with six-figure fines and revoke licenses to do business in Arizona for a third offense, has slipped into a political cocoon where it's undergoing a metamorphosis. Wonder what will emerge?
Meanwhile, Russell and his pal Don Goldwater are running a petition drive to put a more strict version on the 2008 ballot.