A Congressional update with Arizona Congressman Ed Pastor.
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Congressman Ed Pastor is a Democrat representing Arizona's Congressional District 4, based entirely in Maricopa County, including parts of Phoenix, Glendale and Guadalupe. Here now to talk about immigration and other issues affecting his district is Arizona Congressman Ed Pastor.
Ed Pastor: Thank you for allowing me to be here, as a Friend of 8.
Ted Simons: Let's hear what you have to say, though, it's all-encompassing. This is all anyone is talking about and apparently will be for a while. SB 1070, your thoughts.
Ed Pastor: It's a law that had been thought about and passed, I'm told, at least in some committees. Janet Napolitano, when she was governor, was always threatening to veto this piece of legislation. This year with a Republican governor, and how the anti-immigrant politics was playing, she signed it, and when she signed it I felt the only body that could halt it was the federal government. Because under the constitution they had standing. The reason they had standing is because immigration, naturalization and citizenship are all federal issues. I felt the way the bill was written and the law, as it was signed, went into the federal issue of the Constitution. And so immediately I said that we should focus on asking the Department of Justice to intervene. Other people asked for boycotts, other people had marches, but I felt the right thing to do was have the Department of Justice come in and place a temporary injunction.
Ted Simons: Which did happen to major parts of the law?
Ed Pastor: Yes.
Ted Simons: Republicans say the suit itself, all that did was inspire, encourage other states to follow suit.
Ed Pastor: Well, I don't believe that that's the case. I think that if you read about where Senator Pearce got the idea and got the law, it was a professor down in Missouri. There is a whole network. So I think that in other states that you have people in the legislature, in the county government, in city government, because of the anti-immigrant politics, that they felt this was the right way to go. I wasn't surprised by the nationalization of it, or the reaction we had here in Arizona or nationally.
Ted Simons: Representatives Giffords and Kirkpatrick used words like the DOJ lawsuit was a sideshow, a distraction. Do you disagree?
Ed Pastor: I disagree with that point of view. Like most things in life, politics gets in the way. You have to look at a situation, and not everybody -- if you use the prism of politics, depending on the area you represent and the constituents that you have, in a sense you're forced to take a certain stance because politically it may be of interest to you.
Ted Simons: Can congress use a prism of its choice, can it take what has happened in Arizona and do something about comprehensive immigration reform?
Ed Pastor: Well, I think the argument first of all of securing the border is one that most recently played out. We recently passed through Congress a bill that gave millions of dollars for border security. Also made the Obama Administration publicly look like they are tough on border security. It provides border patrols, more equipment, et cetera. So I think that it was maybe stage 1 or maybe stage 2 of saying, we are securing the border, we are working at the border. If you notice what Homeland Security is saying, that never before have we had so many apprehensions, never before have we had so many border patrols. The border is somewhat more secure than it was in the past.
Ted Simons: Are you saying what we have right now, as far as immigration and the laws on the books and the policy that the federal government has now, is that good enough?
Ed Pastor: No. That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is, because of the politics, it's secure the border, build that darn fence. And more troops, et cetera, and 3,000 more troops, whatever it may be, calling the National Guard to the border. I think this is setting the stage to say that this administration is tough on immigration, in terms of illegal immigration coming across, we're going to secure the border. I have a great belief that after the November elections there will be an attempt in the lame duck.
Ted Simons: Do you think so?
Ed Pastor: I think in the lame duck. You may have members of Congress, as well as senators, who have had the elections. Some were defeated, some retired, and some no longer have the political heat they faced or thought they had during the election. So it may be. There's a possibility. I think it may be a possibility in the lame duck that the administration may try to see what it can do with comprehensive immigration reform.
Ted Simons: Interesting, we'll watch out for that. The concept of a temporary worker program, where do you stand on that? What does it even mean?
Ed Pastor: When we did those -- the immigration reform in the '80s, we really did not provide a pipeline for guest workers. The reality is, in this country as it gets older, we have less birth rate, the birth rate is less, so that means that the workforce is diminishing. So we will need a workforce that'll have to come from foreign countries. So to me, the best way to secure the border is to develop a guest worker program that would allow people to come and work, you know where they are. It secures the border. At the same time we are going to have to ensure that these workers have some basic rights so that they are not abused. I think one of the components is to have a guest worker program that allows people to come and work and possibly go back to their country.
Ted Simons: When people talk about amnesty, the word amnesty, what does it mean to you?
Ed Pastor: It means that there is a path to legalization. It says to a person who's been here undocumented and has been working here, has not committed a crime, has paid probably some taxes and probably with a false I.D. has a social security number -- that if that person has those attributes that we look at as a resident -- good parent, hard worker and able to continue to maintain the family -- I want to get that person out of the shadow. Then I know who they are and where they are at. And then allow a process where they have to pay a fine, learn English, whatever the requirements are. But it would transition their status, that of being here legally. After a time, if we want to keep them here, it may go another -- but it's a program that allows the legalization of a person to be here.
Ted Simons: Critics will say it's not fair to those who have waited in line and tried to do things the right way. These sorts of things, it's just not fair.
Ed Pastor: You can be fair by increasing the number of family Visas, so that people who have family folk in other countries, if we increase the Visas, we can allow those families to come. But the reality is that, for the last two decades, we closed our eyes to illegal immigration. You have 10 million, 11 million people who are here, and you cannot stick your head in the sand and say they don't exist. They do exist. As long as we don't know who they are, where they are at and what they are doing, this country will not be secure, even if we secure the border to everybody's satisfaction.
Ted Simons: Are people even listening in this debate anymore? When you're in Washington, if you talk about things like the amnesty idea that you just proposed, is that a deal-breaker right now on Capitol Hill?
Ed Pastor: I think -- no. I think you have people like Jeff Flake, political courage. The right way to handle this he has said is to provide a pathway to legalization so we don't close our eyes on the 11 million, 12 million people here. We have members of the delegation reporting a pathway to legalization. If the opportunity comes you may see where people will let reason be the foundation of their decisions and we will go forward.
Ted Simons: Last question: Back to 1070, supporters of the bill say that what it tries to do and what they hope it will eventually accomplish, they think it is good for Arizona. 1070: Is it good for Arizona?
Ed Pastor: I don't know what it accomplishes other than it rates the presence of a person being here a criminal act. The federal government considers it to be a civil action. And I don't know what it does to secure the border, to create a guest worker program, or to bring any security to the country. All it does, it allows the identification of someone who's here undocumented, regardless of what they have done in terms of contribution, and automatically remove them. I don't look at it this way but other people have seen it as kind of a cleansing of an ethnic group. That's how some people have defined it to me. It doesn't do anything other than creates chaos in our community.
Ted Simons: Is that chaos able to be eventually healed?
Ed Pastor: It will be when we eventually do comprehensive immigration reform. When we have a guest worker program that secures the border, we have more security on the border, and probably an employer sanctions program. If you bring everything into the mix, then it won't be an issue, in terms of -- as we see it politically today.
Ted Simons: Congressman, good to have you here. Thank you for joining us.