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Immigration is not province of Legislature

Citizen Staff Writer

Jim Kolbe is doing it the right way. The Arizona Legislature is not.

In the rush to do something – anything – to get a handle on the illegal immigration crisis, all sorts of tactics are being tried.

But many of those tactics – especially at the state level – are ill-conceived, poorly thought out, tread on federal responsibility and will have little real impact except the legal and financial trouble they can cause.

A study released this week by the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that there are up to 12 million people in the United States illegally, accounting for about 1 in every 20 workers.

Illegal immigrants fill a quarter of all agricultural jobs, 17 percent of office and housecleaning positions, 14 percent of construction jobs and 12 percent of the jobs in food preparation, the study estimated.

Illegal immigrants come seeking work

Clearly, the vast majority of illegal immigrants are coming here to work, and the work they perform is vital to many segments of the U.S. economy.

Kolbe, R-Ariz., recognizes this and has the right ideas in how to approach illegal immigration. He would like to make comprehensive reform part of his legacy in this, his 22nd and final year in Congress.

Kolbe, with other members of Congress, is proposing legislation that includes a guest worker program. He is fighting nonsensical ideas such as building a wall the full length of the U.S.-Mexico border.

To gain support for his proposals, Kolbe recently brought eight House members and their aides to Cochise County so they could see the problem with their own eyes. It seemed to work, with several members surprised by the scope of the problem and the vastness of the area.

That is the right way to tackle the problem: by building support for a national approach that strategically and comprehensively addresses immigration.

Meanwhile in Phoenix, the Legislature is flailing around with all sorts of proposals. Some are aimed at stemming illegal border crossing, some seek to make life so difficult for illegal immigrants that they’ll leave, others are foisted upon us for bald-faced political gamesmanship. All fall short of the mark.

Governor can’t be forced to deploy Guard

One bill would force Gov. Janet Napolitano to assign more National Guard troops to the border.

That’s probably unconstitutional, because the governor is commander of the Guard, just as the president is commander of the armed forces. Congress can’t require the president to deploy troops, and legislators can’t require the governor to.

Napolitano yesterday said she will send additional Guard troops to the border, but not for enforcement.

For almost 20 years, Guardsmen have assisted efforts at the border. Napolitano wants to send more troops to perform administrative and clerical jobs, giving federal agents more time to catch illegal immigrants.

That’s appropriate as long as the troops don’t patrol the border. A National Guard spokesman has noted that placing the military on the border could spur immigrants to take up arms, leading to gunbattles.

Guardsmen are not trained for border enforcement, and putting the military on the border can only serve to antagonize.

The state has neither the authority nor the knowledge to wade into immigration matters. Instead, the Legislature should work with Kolbe and others in Congress to drive a comprehensive national solution.

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