AZ reform advocates hail immigration reformPosted: Updated:
Elected Arizona officials who advocate for immigration reform are hailing a proposal by eight U.S. senators who reached agreement to overhaul the current system while questioning some of the proposal's provisions.
U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva said Monday's proposal by Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, along with four others, puts "the wind at the back" of those seeking comprehensive immigration reform. But he also is questioning the proposal's emphasis on securing the border and enforcement.
President Barack Obama will give a historic speech on comprehensive immigration reform in Las Vegas in front of many community leaders and millions of Americans on live television Tuesday. [Related: Senators reach agreement on immigration reform]
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Councilman Michael Nowakowski will travel to Las Vegas for the speech at the invitation of the White House.
Mayor Stanton issued the following statement:
"Comprehensive immigration reform is long past due for Phoenix, for Arizona and for our country. As Phoenix recovers from post-SB1070 damage, we have the opportunity to look toward a more promising future, one in which we can work together on common-sense policies that benefit our economy, our city and our residents - immigrant or not.
"At a time when bipartisanship is hard to find in Congress, I applaud our Arizona Sens. McCain and Flake for stepping up with their Democratic colleagues and working together toward a solution on immigration. Along with many other leaders in border states, I am optimistic that we can find a path toward success on comprehensive reform."
Warren Stewart, candidate for Phoenix City Council District 8, has also been invited by the Obama administration to attend the speech. Stewart serves as the chair of the National Immigration Forum, an organization committed to federal immigration solutions.
Here is Sen. McCain's full statement he issued Monday:
"The introduction of these principles is the first step in what will be a very difficult, but achievable, reform to our immigration system.
"No one here needs reminding that the last major attempt at immigration reform was over six years ago. Now we will again attempt to commit the remaining resources needed to secure the border, modernize and streamline our current immigration system, and create a tough but fair path to citizenship for those here illegally.
"I am the first to admit that the security situation along the southwest border is not perfect. There remain several areas, particularly in Arizona, where people's homes are being invaded, where drug smugglers are crossing property every night. These citizens deserve the same level of security that all of us standing here have. But there is no question there has been a significant reduction in illegal crossings over the past five years. Apprehensions of illegal immigrants by the Border Patrol have dropped 70 percent from 2005 to 2012 - from 1,189,075 down to 340,252. But as we all acknowledge, the work is not yet complete.
"Greater focus needs to be paid to drug traffickers and criminals that cross the border. Arizona continues to be a major smuggling corridor and distribution hub for drug trafficking organizations. According to the Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, 36 percent of marijuana seizures along the Southwest border happen in Arizona. Often, scouts and spotters employed by drug cartels are used to assist backpackers hauling drugs through the Western Desert.
"To combat this, we need to continue to invest in UAVs, radar and other proven surveillance systems that will give Border Patrol the ability to detect and apprehend all illegal entries into the United States. This is achievable and can be completed within the next few years if we truly commit to it.
"After the border is secure, the next most important step to ensure we do not repeat the mistakes of 1986 immigration reform is to build out a nation-wide electronic employment verification system that will end the hiring of future unauthorized workers. Coupled with increased fines on employers that knowingly hire illegal workers, I believe we will be able to effectively shut off the magnet that attracts illegal workers to the U.S.
"Just as critical, we will put in place a legal worker program to provide a humane and effective system that allows immigrant workers to enter the country without seeking the aid of human traffickers or drug cartels. Any immigration legislation that passes Congress must establish practical legal channels for workers to enter the United States - whether they are high skill, low skill, or agriculture workers, so we can free up federal officials to focus on those individuals truly intending to do our nation harm through drug smuggling, people trafficking and possibly terrorism.
"Providing an expedited path to citizenship for DREAMers, developing a measurement to determine when the border is truly secure, reforming our future immigration system to better meet the needs of our employers, ensuring an entry-exit system to combat visa overstays and creating a program that makes certain U.S. agriculture has the necessary workers to maintain America's food supply, are just some of the issues that we have committed to addressing - and solving - in a bipartisan manner.
"And, finally, we come to the most controversial piece of immigration reform. That is how to deal with the approximately 11 million people living in the United States outside of legal status.
"What is going on now is not acceptable. In reality, what has been created is a de facto-amnesty. We, the American people, have been too content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawn, serve us food, clean our homes and even watch our children while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.
"I think everyone here agrees that it is not beneficial for our country to have these people here hidden in the shadows. Let's create a system to bring them forward, allow them to settle their debt to society and fulfill the necessary requirements to become law-abiding citizens of this country. This is consistent with our country's tradition of being a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants."
Others, including Arizona Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, called the proposal a good day for America. Sinema released her statement:
"I applaud Senators McCain and Flake for taking leadership in a bipartisan effort to take on the voters' mandate and fix our immigration system during this term in Congress.
"Arizona is ground zero for this issue -- and inaction in our nation's legislature has affected our communities for far too long. What we need is a Congress who will demonstrate the moral courage to work past partisan ideology and find the critical common ground to put these solutions in place once and for all.
"The senators outlined a framework for both parties to come together on comprehensive reform. Many of us will differ on our approach to these principles. I look forward to sitting down with anyone who will work toward a secure border, a market-based approach, a fair path to citizenship and solutions that are fair to the American taxpayer. Today's action is a solid start."
There was a cool reaction from some lawmakers, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who said immigration legislation is too important to be written in a back room.
Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.