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Op-ed: Politicians Playing Unprincipled Trick with Immigration Issue

August 3, 2010
"Round up the usual suspects!"

“Round up the usual suspects.”

August 1, 2010 Arizona Republic-Viewpoints Sunday Paper

By Lisa Urias

It’s no secret that the United States and Arizona are in a recession. Unemployment is high, and the prospect of growth looks dim. It’s no coincidence that Senate Bill 1070 sprung out of this environment.

Last Wednesday, an Arizona federal judge blocked key provisions of the bill, proving what many already knew: SB 1070 was both ill-conceived and poorly written.

So, what’s next? If our economy does not improve, if unemployment continues to lag, real estate fails to rebound and property and sales taxes do not increase, will our politicians continue to make immigrant labor the central focus of their agenda?

Unfortunately, yes.

Arizona political leadership now has two windmills to tilt at and two enemies to fight: the federal government and immigrant labor. And the shrill of their indignity will be fierce.

Meantime, we mortgage government buildings to pay current operating expenses. We are 50th in the nation in education funding. K-12 school budgets are in crisis with increasing classroom sizes and fewer resources for our children. Parks and senior centers are closing. We violate EPA air standards year after year.

The Arizona Board of Regents may cut AIMS scholarships, and university tuition rates are reaching unaffordable levels, cutting off Arizona youths from college degrees at a time of unprecedented global labor competition. We are cutting health and human services to seniors and children as well as support to our arts and cultural institutions.

All while our state and Maricopa County governments have seen staggering budget misallocations and wasteful litigation.

So, permit me to ask, if 1070 were in effect today as written, and if the federal government hadn’t intervened, would any of the problems identified above be resolved? Can we honestly say immigrant laborers are the source of these problems? Gov. Jan Brewer, Sen. Russell Pearce and Rep. John Kavanagh would like us to believe that story.

And as Arizona political leadership ratchets up their fever pitch against immigrants and the federal government, is any leadership speaking to the real problems facing the Arizona quality of life going forward?

To suggest that immigrants are the reason for all our woes is a classic case of political three-card monte, an unprincipled trick to take our eye off the ball. It is also no coincidence that it takes pressure off our leadership to find solutions to the real problems we all face here.

But the sleight of hand won’t stop until Arizonans insist on it. Our citizenry must hold our political leaders accountable and stop letting them off the hook with clever misdirection.

So, I leave you with these questions: What if the Arizona and U.S. economies do not improve? What if unemployment continues to lag and real estate fails to rebound?

What if state and municipal debts continue to grow and tax receipts fall or remain stagnant?

How do you expect existing Arizona leadership to respond? I venture the following: “Round up the usual suspects.”

Lisa Urias is president of Urias Communications and the vice chair of Arizona Latino Research Enterprise, which was formed in 2004 to have a positive impact on Arizona and the Latino community.

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