Arizona lawmakers seek to curb
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Jan. 18, 2005
PHOENIX - Frustrated over the
country's failed immigration policies, some
members of the Arizona Legislature are trying to
chip away at the massive problems caused by
people sneaking across the border - a burden
they say the federal government isn't adequately
While their proposals focus on
only a few elements of the problem, the
lawmakers say their approaches would help reduce
the human and financial costs of illegal
immigration in Arizona, the busiest illegal
entry point on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Rep. Russell Pearce, a Mesa
Republican, has proposed requiring that
government employees verify the immigration
status of applicants for public benefits such as
housing and giving local police agencies the
power to investigate and detain illegal
Democratic Rep. Steve Gallardo of
Phoenix wants to make human trafficking a crime
that county and state officials in Arizona can
pursue, much as federal authorities have
targeted migrant smugglers, known as "coyotes."
"We never gave them tools or the
means for law enforcement to go after some of
the coyotes," Gallardo said.
More than any other state in
recent years, Arizona has been dogged by a heavy
flow of illegal immigrants after the government
tightened enforcement in El Paso and San Diego
during the mid-1990s.
Even though immigrants provide
the American economy with cheap labor, border
states shoulder huge health care and education
costs for illegal workers and their families.
The federal government has
launched a crackdown on migrant smuggling
operations in metropolitan Phoenix and deployed
more federal agents and equipment to the border.
The crackdown was credited with
reducing violent crime in Phoenix, though it has
prompted smugglers to operate in other Arizona
communities and Southwestern states.
Angela Kelley of the
pro-illegal-immigrant National Immigration
Forum, said the Arizona lawmakers' proposals
would not reduce illegal immigration and would
burden state and local governments. "You can
keep putting these penalties on people, but it
doesn't make us safer."
The larger solution is for
Congress to make it legal for would-be crossers
to work here temporarily and let their families
visit, Kelley said.