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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Friday, December 07, 2012

Bipartisan Group Proposes Arizona Immigration Plan


By Daniel Gonzalez, Dan Nowicki, Mary Jo Pitzl and Wingett Sanchez
December 5, 2012


As Congress gears up to once again tackle the long-simmering issue of comprehensive immigration reform next year, a bipartisan Arizona group of prominent community leaders is hoping to lead the way with a four-point blueprint for fixing the nation’s broken borders and rehabilitating the state’s battered national image.

The coalition of elected officials, business leaders and civic activists wants to end Arizona’s reputation as a leader of enforcement-only measures such as the controversial Senate Bill 1070 by offering a broader solution that acknowledges the contributions of illegal immigrants and the role immigrants play in the economy.

The immigration-reform framework, unveiled Wednesday, already has been received favorably by several members of Arizona’s Capitol Hill delegation, including Republican U.S. Sen.-elect Jeff Flake, a six-term congressman poised to become a player in the coming debate, and the retiring GOP U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl. President Barack Obama and congressional lawmakers have signaled that another attempt at enacting comprehensive reform is a top priority for the coming months. High-profile bipartisan efforts failed to pass legislation in 2006 and 2007.

The new plan does not have the backing of Gov. Jan Brewer or other key Republican lawmakers in the state Legislature who in the past have pushed for enforcement measures aimed at driving illegal immigrants out of the state, but its backers emphasized that Congress, not the Legislature, is where the action on this issue is.

Supporters of the plan say the state’s enforcement-only approach has created the impression outside the state that Arizona is hostile toward immigrants and Latinos and, as a result, has hurt the state’s economy by driving away tourists, conventions and business development.

“What we hope to do through leadership organizations, through individuals throughout the state and through our own elected leaders is to mitigate the damage that has been done to our state,” said Denise Resnik, co-founder of the Real Arizona Coalition, which is made up of 40 businesses groups, religious organizations, and minority- and immigrant-advocacy groups.

Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a Washington, D.C.-based immigrant advocacy group, said the plan is a significant step, even though he disagrees with some of the provisions.

“This shows that the adults of Arizona are standing up, and let’s all hope the adults can marginalize people like Jan Brewer and (Maricopa County Sheriff) Joe Arpaio and others who have really saddled Arizona with the reputation of being anti-immigrant and anti-Latino,” Sharry said.

‘An enforcement treadmill’

Dubbed the Solution to Federal Immigration Reform, or SANE, the plan calls for continuing to strengthen border security and focus on immigration enforcement but also letting illegal immigrants earn legal status and revamping the nation’s visa system so immigrants can come legally to fill labor demands.

The plan is the result of meetings around the state over the past year that attempted to distill viewpoints from all sides of the immigration issue, Resnik said.

The plan has the bipartisan backing of several prominent elected officials, including Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, a Republican, and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat, as well as from retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Montgomery, who has emerged as the most prominent Republican supporter of the plan, said the plan should not be viewed as a rejection of SB 1070 but rather an acknowledgment that illegal immigration cannot be solved through enforcement alone. He defended SB 1070 as a necessary response by the state to the federal government’s failure to address the issue. He hopes the SANE plan will help kick-start the issue in Congress.

“I am currently stuck on an enforcement treadmill,” Montgomery said. “I can continue and will continue to enforce the laws that we have on our books right now, but that’s just the enforcement approach, and until we address that broader issue, I don’t know how we are able to move beyond trying to find a solution.”

Flake applauded the work of the coalition, which he described as broader-based than groups that offered proposals in the past. He said he appreciated the inclusion of language calling for operational control of the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I looked at that a while ago, and it looks very good, frankly,” Flake told The Arizona Republic on Wednesday. “I think we have recognition everywhere that we need to have operational control at the border. Those that I’ve been talking to here in Washington, on all sides, recognize that needs to take place. That’s a change — that hasn’t been the case in years prior.”

U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz., said he also likes the coalition’s ideas and is willing to work with the group. He said he believes the timing appears right to enact immigration reform and the community effort could prove helpful.

“Hopefully, by having the community led by Justice O’Connor step forward, with a number of elected officials and business leaders, it possibly will give political cover to people that may need it,” Pastor said. “And it will bring a dialogue and conversation that is much needed in Arizona, rather than just self-deportation and all the negative stuff.”

Minimal involvement of the Legislature

The coalition informed key lawmakers and Brewer of its plans, but did not solicit their support, noting it’s a matter for Congress, not the Legislature. Some Republican lawmakers see the plan as an attempt to bypass the Legislature.

Brewer’s spokesman, Matthew Benson, said the governor continues to believe that broader immigration reforms can’t be addressed until the border is first secured, and she therefore doesn’t support the group’s plan.

“It is a fact that her position has been — and remains — that we need to secure the border first and then deal with the ancillary issue of comprehensive immigration reform … which is contrary to what the SANE group is proposing,” Benson said.

Brewer gained national prominence after signing SB 1070 in April 2010 and has continued to take a tough stance on illegal immigration. In August, she issued an executive order denying driver’s licenses to young undocumented immigrants allowed to live and work temporarily in the U.S. through Obama’s new deportation-deferment policy.

Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, said members of the group asked to meet with him to show him their plan but he does not believe the group truly wants to involve state lawmakers.

“It’s clearly an effort to circumvent the Legislature,” he said.

In the state Senate, President-elect Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said he first heard of the plan Tuesday and, after a brief review, dismissed it as vague and superficial.

“It looks to me like they’re trying to find an approach to grant amnesty,” he said, noting the SANE proposal acknowledges it doesn’t have an answer on whether illegal immigrants in the United State should be granted citizenship.

But Kyl said coalition members were wise to defer to Congress on many specifics.

“They left a lot of the details to be worked out, which is appropriate, because the devil is in the details in comprehensive immigration reform and it’s the product of a lot of negotiating,” said Kyl, who co-sponsored an unsuccessful 2007 version of immigration-reform legislation with the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

A push for federal reform

The plan comes at a time when there is a growing push for immigration reform in Congress after Obama won re-election in November with more than 70 percent of the Latino vote.

On Tuesday, former President George W. Bush joined other prominent Republicans in calling for Congress to come up with a solution. Obama has said he would like to see an immigration bill introduced soon after his inauguration on Jan. 21.

“We know that after this election, immigration reform is going to happen with or without our input from here in Arizona,” Resnik said during a meeting with The Republic’s editorial board. “But we do believe that Arizona needs to lead on federal immigration so that we can mitigate some of the damage that has been caused to our state. We know that state-led enforcement-only strategies aren’t the answer. We know that there have been some unintended consequences as a result of some of those efforts.”

The plan outlines four steps for addressing immigration: strengthen border security, account for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants by requiring them to register with the federal government, revise the nation’s visa system and enforce immigration laws.

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