State House Rep. Robert Thorpe (R-Flagstaff) this week strongly urged defeat of a bipartisan overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws supported by both of Arizona’s U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake.
The U.S. Senate on Monday voted 67-27 to add expensive security provisions to the bill, which could face a final vote on Friday.
Once the bill passes the Senate, it goes to the Republican-controlled House, where Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Prescott) represents Rim Country. Gosar this week said on a national talk show that he could not support the Senate proposal when it gets to the House.
The senate package supported so far by all the Democrats and a third of the Republicans would provide a way for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants with a job and a clean record and money to pay fines a path to citizenship. Last-minute amendments, added $40 billion for border security — including 20,000 more border patrol agents, 700 miles of fencing and $4.5 billion in surveillance technology like aerial drones.
Nonetheless, Thorpe — who represents Rim Country in the state House of Representatives — blasted the bill as “disastrous for both the United States and all immediately vulnerable border states like Arizona.”
He said the federal government never built border fencing promised in 2006 along the 1,700-mile-long border with Mexico.
“Not only is this misguided bill bloated in its shear (sic) size, but it does not do nearly enough to ensure an end to rampant illegal immigration nor does it secure our border against violent drug cartels, brutal human trafficking syndicates or dangerous foreign agents of terror. However, it does promote a de-facto amnesty, rewarding tens of millions who have broken our immigration laws.”
A group of senators from both parties including Flake and McCain dubbed the “gang of eight” negotiated the details of the package of reforms, with the final bill running to some 1,100 pages. Some 400 organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the major labor unions ultimately supported the bill, which would enable undocumented workers with jobs and no trouble with the law to gain provisional legal status. After a 10-year waiting period, they could apply for citizenship. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would actually reduce the deficit by $197 billion over 10 years.
However, changes in the law to win more Republican votes in the Senate added $40 billion for border security. The senate-adopted version would prevent the decade-long waiting period from starting until after all the added border security measures were in place.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer also expressed doubts about the reforms — but stopped short of actually taking a position. Brewer fought a bruising battle with Republicans in the Legislature to expand the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, but this time sidestepped a fresh controversy.
“I understand there is anticipation for me to take a position either endorsing or opposing the ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration reform bill. I have not endorsed or opposed the bill because I know it remains a work in progress. I have faith that House Republicans will improve the bill by making securing our border the top priority.”
In a commentary published in the Arizona Republic in May, Gosar and Arizona congressmen David Schweikert and Matt Salmon discussed immigration reform. That commentary observed, “there is no benefit to keeping 11 million illegal immigrants trapped in the shadows. In fact, it is in our country’s interest to know who they are and where they live. Reforming our immigration system to address the status of the 11 million people in our country illegally should focus on normalizing their legal status without access to federal benefits or a special pathway to citizenship.”
However, the congressmen concluded that border security also remains crucial.
“Finally, real and objectively verifiable border security must be a part of any legislation. If we cannot stem the tide of illegal immigration, we are destined to repeat the cycle of amnesty again and again.
“In 1986, Congress passed comprehensive immigration reform, granting amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants, while promising that it would solve our country’s illegal immigration problem. Today, we have 11 million illegal immigrants, and we are on the verge of repeating the same mistakes. We have an opportunity to learn from those mistakes and reform our immigration system in a way that preserves America’s tradition of fairness, freedom and equality. We hope Congress will not squander that opportunity,” the congressmen concluded.