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Arizona’s Role In The Gang Of Eight

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Aired 1/22/13

Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake are part of the so-called Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group in the Senate that’s hammering out a proposal.

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Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona are two of the eight lawmakers brainstorming to lay the foundation for comprehensive immigration reform.

— When Congress takes up immigration reform in the next few weeks, two lawmakers from Arizona will have a big hand in shaping the debate.

Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake are part of the so-called Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group in the Senate that’s hammering out a proposal.

In a way, it’s obvious why one-quarter of the Gang hails from Arizona. Back in 2010, protests over the state’s immigration law, SB 1070, made Arizona a poster child for the anger felt on both sides over failed policies in Washington.

Now, the 113th Congress will try again.

“I think we have to have a bigger tent, no doubt about it” McCain said recently on Fox News. “Obviously, we have to do immigration reform. And there is no doubt whatsoever that the demographics are not on our side and we are going to have to give a much more positive agenda.”

McCain was referring to the Republican Party’s poor showing among Latinos in the 2012 election. But this is not the first time the Arizona senator has grappled with immigration reform.

In 2005, he rolled out a plan with Sen. Ted Kennedy that included boosting border security and a route to permanent status for millions of illegal immigrants. It failed, and as political winds shifted in the coming years, McCain’s stance moved in support of stricter immigration enforcement.

“Probably out of that Gang of Eight, he has the potential to be the most influential senator," said Arizona State University political analyst Bruce Merrill, who cited McCain’s tenure in Congress and his long history with the issue.

Merrill added that McCain can, and should, support the most contentious issue at the heart of immigration reform: a path to citizenship. With so many undocumented immigrants living in the United States, Merrill said there isn’t any other reasonable solution.

“What do you do? Round up 10 to 12 million people and herd them across the border?”

So, inevitably, Congress must deal with the question of amnesty.

The most junior member of the Gang of Eight, Sen. Jeff Flake, said this will be a big sticking point between the parties.

“To some it smacks of amnesty if you’re not deporting everyone who is here is illegally,” he explained. “If you give any path or any way to adjust your status short of going to your home country for 10 years, some people will classify that as amnesty. I don’t.”

Flake is advocating for hefty fines and background checks before illegal immigrants can get a provisional work visa. Anyone who came here illegally needs to get behind those who sought citizenship the right way, he said.

Flake added: “It’s a long, arduous path. But it wouldn’t be an amnesty, because you’re not cutting in line.”

In an interview, Flake described his personal history growing up in a border state working on a farm alongside Mexican migrants. This helped him understand the complexity of the problem.

He was never able to look at the people working along side him and think of them as criminals, “although many did not have legal status,” Flake said.

“They were coming in large measure just to feed their families and to have a better life. So I have always thought we need a solution to this problem, one that deals with it humanely.”

Special Feature Broken Border: Immigration Reform in the Southwest

Our series, Broken Border, peels apart the complex tangle of the immigration debate to explore what matters.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat from Illinois, said having McCain and Flake in the Senate working on this issue will be good for the debate.

“I can’t think of a better state to have two republicans working on this,” said Gutierrez, who co-sponsored an immigration bill with then-Representative Flake in 2007. “Before SB 1070 they were for comprehensive immigration reform and they worked with Republicans to get it done. And now they are working once again.”

The president is expected to release his plan for immigration reform later this month.

Comments

Avatar for user 'jskdn'

jskdn | January 23, 2013 at 9:37 a.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

It's not amnesty, it's amnesty plus, where people are rewarded for their violations of our immigration laws, which are the defining criteria for obtaining those rewards. The word amnesty has its root meaning in “forgetting.” But it's not forgetting the violations of the law when they become the reason for permanently awarding the ill-gotten gains that were the reason for those violations. It's like someone who stole a pricy car wasn't just not prosecuted but was also allowed keep it at a steep discount. If you question whether the proposed “pathways” are a reward, ask yourself what the same deal would go for on the world market to people who have never violated a law in this country? It's been reported that people from China have been paying $50,000 to get here illegally. Permanent legal status with eventual citizenship has to be worth much more. But those in other countries that have not broken our laws won't be eligible.

I also find it remarkable that the voters of Arizona sent two open-border Senators to the nations capital where they will undo all the efforts done in their state to control illegal immigration. I understand the they both converted to border hawks for their campaigns, the border being the preferred locus misdirection political theater for politicians who don't really want to control illegal immigration. And, of course, McCain and Flake had huge amount of help that comes by way of the propaganda of open-borders media. Yet I still have to wonder what Arizona voters thought would happen when these two voted on immigration legislation.

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Avatar for user 'Really123'

Really123 | January 23, 2013 at 10:27 a.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

jskdn, I can't imagine walking around our county seeing car thieves everywhere I see a Mexican.

Anyone who has studied the history of our region realizes that our narrative includes Mexico and Mexicans. The first Californians were Mexicans for pete's sake. We were, are, and will be always tied together.

People move here from other parts of the country and don't understand what it means to be a Californian. Our history here is NOT the same as the North East. We need to come up with a reasonable solution to this problem and stop believing that we can somehow magically remove all illegal immigrants with the snap of your fingers. They are an integral part of the fabric of the state. After all, most of our major cities have Spanish names.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | January 23, 2013 at 2:47 p.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

Really123,

The first Californians were not Mexican, but Native Americans.

The first organized state was European (Spain, England, and Russia).

Mexico was simply the successor state to Spain for just 23 years. In fact, Mexico never considered California anything more than a territory and never granted it statehood.

So to claim that California and Mexico "were, are, and will be always tied together" is incorrect.

Illegal immigrants from Mexico have no connection to California beyond economic self interest.

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Avatar for user 'jskdn'

jskdn | January 23, 2013 at 3:29 p.m. ― 1 year, 11 months ago

Really 123-

The car theft comparison was to illustrate the idea of separating the removal of a punishment for having violated the law from the ability to keep ill-gotten gains from the violations. So ignore car theft and just think about that when thinking about illegal immigrants, which are neither all Mexican nor are all Mexicans illegal immigrants. Illegal isn't racial, ethnic nor a nationality.

I'm well aware of our history, which doesn't change that we are sovereign nation separate from the sovereign nation of Mexico. We have a right to choose the immigration policies we want and not have people from other countries decide that as they please.

What's reasonable begs the question. We won't need to deport all illegal immigrants as long as we deport as part of a coherent enforcement agenda that makes it abundantly clear that being here illegally isn't acceptable. That's pretty much the opposite of the message some, including the President, want to send. And that can't happen with a snap of finger but rather will be something that is established over time through acting in a matter consistent with that message until the doubts about it fade away.

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