Journalists Roundtable

More from this show

Arizona journalists review the week’s top news stories.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary K Reinhart of "The Arizona Republic," Dennis Welch of "The Arizona Guardian" and Luige Del Puerto of "The Arizona Capitol Times." Lots of activity at the legislature this week. Let's start with the Russell Pearce-driven omnibus immigration bill. Mary K, senate president Pearce said it's a minor technical correction. It's a big one.

Mary K Reinhart: It's a technical correction with everything but the kitchen sink in it. It just ran the gamut affecting public benefits, affecting, you know, a whole raft of services and affecting the way people who apply for those benefits will be unable to receive them.

Ted Simons: This has been described as 1070 on steroids. Is that how it's looked at down at the capitol.

Dennis Welch: That's the narrative that the depends would love you to believe. Look, this is another 1070 bill and let's see where it's going to go. As of right now, I don't think it has the votes to get out of senate right now. There's business-minded Republicans who are getting tired of dealing with the immigration bill and think, hey, we need to focus more on economics, job creation and fixing the budget first.

Ted Simons: Luige, let's get to particulars, something as simple as enrolling kids in school. What does the bill call for?

Luige Del Puerto: The bill says, well, currently, you need to present a birth certificate or some kind of document that would identify who you are and your age during the enrollment process. This bill basically says we're going to do away with those provisions and replace it with a more limiting list of documents you have to show in order to enroll a kid. The bill doesn't say if you can't provide any one of those documents or that if you can't provide them, the kid would not be allowed to get enrolled. It doesn't also say after the kid is enrolled and you still can't provide those documents that the kid would be taken out of school. But -- but what the critics are saying, what it creates is a environment of fear, an environment of intimidation and as a result of that, it would violate a Supreme Court decision in the 1980s that says that states can't deny children of illegal immigrants free access to education.

Ted Simons: An undocumented immigrant can enroll in school but you've got to let everyone know that the parents are undocumented and the kid is not legal.

Mary K Reinhart: Much like S.B. 1070, what this bill does in many ways is by attrition, you know, eliminate undocumented families from a variety of services, including emergency hospital care. There's provisions that don't say the hospital can't treatment people who can't prove citizenship, but the hospitals won't get paid. Right now, there's a funding mechanic who must treat those who appear at their emergency doors and the bill cuts off that funding.
Ted Simons: The idea of showing certain documents. The in the past, help me here, up to point where federal law happens. This new bill says forget that, this is what you've got to do as far as public benefits.

Dennis Welch: I think they were going after housing. Figure they'd take advantage of public housing and don't want illegal immigrants to benefit off that. And another provision that says you can't sell a car to someone undocumented and can't provide certain paperwork I'm sure the car industry is really thrilled about that provision, but it really just is all encompassing.

Mary K Reinhart: Of the hundreds of people who showed up and against the bill saying this is going too far.

Dennis Welch: And he got beat up by that committee, I think it was Ron Gould, your opposition to the bill is transparent, this is a Republican going after the business industry saying what you want is access it cheap labor.

Luige Del Puerto: Just to be clear, for Ron Gould to say that is not out of character for him to say that. I think there are members of the state legislature, like Ron Gould or senate president Russell Pearce who have said there are groups, open border groups that basically want illegal immigrants to be able to come here so they can hide them and not have to pay so much for labor.

Ted Simons: Back to your point, so if I want to go buy a VOLVO or Buick, I've got to -- what? -- bring my birth certificate? What do I have to do? Is my driver's license not good enough? What's going on here?

Luige Del Puerto: That's one of the points that the critics have raised. Basically the bill says in order to apply for a title or registration to a car, you need to show proof of legal presence and if the illegal immigrant is using a car and that person gets caught, the car is forfeited. Some say that you have people out of state traveling for business or what have you, would this mean we will have to -- they would have to bring their certificate or some kind of document when they rent a car. So that rental companies are assured that -- that --

Dennis Welch: That provision, what's interesting about that, we were talking about this on the floor with some other people, it's still unclear. Let's say someone not here legally steals your car and gets pulled over, can the state forfeit and steal your car? There's a lot still that needs to be worked out.
Mary K Reinhart: It points out another problem the opponents have. Who can put their finger on their birth certificate? When we cleaned out my parents' house, I had no idea where mine was. There were a lot of people who can't provide those documents at a blink of an eye. When they're buying a car, enrolling a kid in school. You probably have a birth certificate, but you can't put your fingers on it, you might be out the luck and I think the business community is saying, one of the things, we don't want visitors to feel like when they come to Arizona, they need to bring their papers with them.
Luige Del Puerto: I think Ron Gould was candid when he said the aim of this bill and all of the other immigration legislation make the state an unfriendly as it can be for illegal immigrant so if they come here, they'll pass as through as quickly as they could. I think ultimately, that's what they warn that's a problem for tourists.

Dennis Welch: Glen hammer mentioned how we had fallen from a top five or 10 top destinations for tourists, to under 25, 30. It's taken a toll. These immigration measures have taken a toll on tourism. That's what they're saying.
Ted Simons: The bill has a lot of you can't do this or that unless you do X, Y, Z. Do we have enforcement costs to make sure that X, Y and Z happen?

Luige Del Puerto: Well, it's -- I don't know the answer to the question.

Dennis Welch: Well, I think what Mr. Pearce would say, we can't afford to not put these in here. It takes billions and millions and billions of dollars to educate and incarcerate and whatever else -- medicate, there you go. To put in for this stuff and he could say this will save taxpayers money.

Mary K Reinhart: There's a lot of numbers bandied B. and we've heard it costs hundreds of millions to educate illegal immigrants and healthcare costs and so exactly that point. The point would be made this is actually going to save us money.

Ted Simons: If it costs X to enforce, it costs X squared if you don't get it done.

Dennis Welch: There's no hard number; that it's going to cost the taxpayers X amount of money.
Ted Simons: Back to your point. Regarding how much chance this has. Getting out of the senate and what happens over in the house and if all of that happens, what the governor might do with something like this. Let's go down the road.

Dennis Welch: I'll preface that anything can change at any time but this bill has problems moving through. There are business-minded Republicans who say we need to focus on the other issues and this is distracting from that. It's distracting -- it's going to hurt us from bringing companies here with jobs and tourism and this kind of thing and there was a notion in the senate that the some of the senators feel a bit betrayed by their president that he promised he was not going to run any big immigration measures himself until there was a budget fix.

Ted Simons: I want to get back to that. One senator in particular said he wouldn't hear a bill, and basically -- without saying that Russell Pearce lied -He didn't necessary tell the truth either-- back to the possibility of the ominous bill. What are you seeing down there?

Luige Del Puerto: When we had a supermajority, elected, the assumptions with that Russell Pearce would be able to get this bill to the floor at least. The question was, still is, can he get it out of the senate. I've talked to several state senators, state Republicans who have said they will not vote for the birthright legislation and they're still considering what to do or how to vote as far as the omnibus bill. Short answer is we don't know if he has the votes in the senate. He has said he has the votes to get it out of the committee and out on the floor. But as we've seen in judiciary, they couldn't get it out. I think the same problems with judiciary, they're dealing with an even broader scheme, if you will, now that they're having to deal with 30 senator, basically 21 Republicans, and to get 16 votes and hold that 16 votes out of 21 Republicans, that's a big if at this point.
Ted Simons: Before we leave this particular bill, that night, there seemed to be some sort of security concerns seem to be bubbling to the surface. A lot of talk regarding that. What's going on now?

Mary K Reinhart: There were two things that happened earlier in the day. Senator Kyrsten Sinema had a news conference that was interrupted. Cited and released on disorderly charges and three rooms opened up for overflow and they got rowdy and clapping and applauding when folks testified in opposition to the omnibus bill. One of the folks, Salvador REZA, he's an immigration activist, he was asked by security to calm people down. He said, I'm not sure what I can do here, and security said if you can't get the people to calm down, we're going to have to kick everybody out. Nobody got kicked out. The hearing went on to 2:00 in the morning. On Thursday afternoon when Mr. REZA came to the senate, he says to see a senator, he was told he was not allowed in the senate any longer and it stemmed from the Tuesday evening late early morning raucous behavior of the folks in the hearing room. I think the feeling that he has and the senator, if they're not going -- they're going to ban Salvador REZA, they should been a lot of people. There's talk about who is banning who and is there a ban and senator Pearce says there's no list and that law enforcement has the right and responsibility to -- to enforce decorum and protect the security of the members and public. And that's what they were doing.

Ted Simons: Wanted to make sure, seemed like all of a sudden, everybody was talking security. And I realized it was raucous, but --

Luige Del Puerto: What happened that night was that because there were quite a huge number of people wanting to attend, they had only allowed staffers and media people and those who testified for and against the bill in the senate room itself where they're doing the hearing. The rest of the audience were directed to overflow room where is they could watch on TV. We could hear the clapping and what have you that night.
Dennis Welch: There's been an overall, this whole session, a lot of discussion about security down at the capitol. Whether it's appropriate and people are concerned. Particularly this session started with the Gabrielle Giffords tragedy and this adds more to the conversation and this year, a lot of protests and counter protests and, heck, even had armed tea party patriots down there at one point were there with their guns and it's been a crazy year for that.
Luige Del Puerto: Any time you have an immigration bill that's, you know, as comprehensive or sweeping, some would say, as the bills we've seen, you can almost expect emotions to get very high.
Mary K Reinhart: One of the things that senator Pearce told me they've let all kind of things go on on the lawn and there's been protests galore and a lot of noise and goings on and arguing and high-spirited debate and once it's inside the senate, that's another story and I think that's the distinction he's making.

Ted Simons: Birthright, they advance as well week?

Luige Del Puerto: The senate -- voting, the same problem with the omnibus bill, the same problems with this birthright legislation. When I say problems, it's getting them out the senate, there are several Republican lawmakers who told me outright they're going to vote no on the birthright legislation. They've raised concerns, one is does it really get to the question of citizenship. If the United States Supreme Court heard it would it rule on the side of American citizenship? Some are saying they might dismiss it on other grounds and to them, it doesn't get to the issue that the supporters of the legislation are wanting the Supreme Court to rule on.

Ted Simons: We should mention, 1308 and 1309 joins Arizona with other states with the compact, and the other redefines. Both challenging the 14th amendment. And is there something as immigration fatigue going on? Folks have enough?

Dennis Welch: I think it's definitely going on out there. You talk to people like senator McComish or senator Reagan. That there might be fatigue on a particular issue. We've been dealing with these bills now for years, going back to 2004 and, Luige -- these are not easy battles, these are highly emotion and contested and nasty battles and it's got to wear people out at some point.
Mary K Reinhart: And one of the things about the birthright and omnibus bill, they challenge the federal government on about 15 places and do we really want -- I think some of the lawmakers are thinking, do we want to be in pro longed court battles on 16 things.
Dennis Welch: We're already in court with the federal government with -- employer sanction, just wrapped up recently. So 1070 is still works its way and a host of others.

Ted Simons: I guess we can segue into the idea of nullifying federal laws by way of -- get this right -- a commission says the federal action, we're not crazy about it, but recommending that the legislature -- what? -- tell the citizenry they're not obligated to follow federal law?

Luige Del Puerto: The way the bill is drafted it's going to create a committee made up of lawmakers and they're going to review federal laws and their job is to look at federal law and say is this outside of what we think is the -- you know, the purview of the United States constitution? And then they will recommend to the state legislature to nullify a federal law and once the state legislature nullifies the federal law, the citizens of Arizona and the state itself is not obligated to follow that rule, that executive order, that law.

Ted Simons: Let me put putt the criticism of this in a nutshell -- you can't do that. [Laughter] We had a debate on "Horizon" this week with a couple of legal folks and Paul Bender basically said you can't do this -
Dennis Welch: Just because you can't -- this attacking the federal government and trying to stop them from doing things you don't want them to do is vogue this year with Republicans. You saw that even in the governor's state-of-the-state speech, one of her pillars was renewed federalism and cut the ties with the federal government on as many levels as we can.

Luige Del Puerto: And the Goldwater institute said there are two meanings or understandings of the nullification. One is that -- the protest understanding. Basically the states saying we don't want -- like what you're doing. We're putting you on notice we don't like it. The other understanding is that the interpretation that states have the authority or the right or the -- that the states can interpret what a provision of the United States constitution says and when it was looked at, it is more in line with the protests on nullification, and saying, this is the same thing, guys, we don't like what you're doing but enforcing or implementing and I've asked sponsors of the bill the same question: Is this enforceable and their answer is we want the Supreme Court to rule on this one.

Dennis Welch: If you look even beyond that, all the bills being dropped in the senate this year, there's a bill that charge the federal government or entities of the federal government to do work in Arizona like OSHA. You'd have to notify local authorities and they could charge you a reasonable fee and there's a committee set up to look at sovereignty issues, which hears those bills and this is a kind of continuation of another theme going on.

Mary K Reinhart: And it's a national movement. A lot of folks got elected on the plank of challenging the federal government's authority. Healthcare reform and the bailout, I think there was a lot of anger and concern about the reach of the federal government and some campaigned on it.

Ted Simons: A few minutes left. I wanted to get to the bill that abolishes AHCCCS. Talking about terminating it October 1st. Sounds like it is symbolic but the bill says by October 1st, it's gone. What's going on?

Mary K Reinhart: I think at its heart it's symbolic. Senator Biggs, whose bill this is, the appropriations commission chairman. It's a way to get people talking about the need for reforms and the size of Medicaid and how it's growing and he says, kind of edging out other state government -- other government programs -- education and public safety and things like that. And they got this bill through the appropriations committee during that marathon meeting and it has not gone to rules yet but we'll see if it can get out of senate. There are people who don't think it will. But it's clearly sending a message which is a lot of this legislation is doing.

Dennis Welch: Which is hilarious that the majority party needs symbolic gestures out there. They're acting like the minority party that are supposed to be throwing bill bombshells out there to grab headlines. I don't see a scenario that the governor is going to sign a bill that guts AHCCCS. She's said I want to protect the million or so people on there already. The chance of gutting it is almost impossible.

Luige Del Puerto: Well, yeah, and even Andy Biggs admitted that he probably will not be able to get this bill through, but like Mary K said, he wants to start a conversation. He thinks that AHCCCS, the way we fund it, fundamental reforms and this is the way do it. To start a serious conversation how we fund Medicaid because the state is in trouble and we don't have the money and Republicans said time and time again, the spending for AHCCCS has grown dramatically and we need to rein it in.

Mary K Reinhart: Democrats have said this is a countersinicle program AHCCCS. The reason it's grown is that we've had a creation and they're poor and qualify for healthcare. When the economy turns around, the numbers will turn around.

Ted Simons: Rich Crandall said if this happened there had be no hospitals by Christmas. McComish mentioned and a couple of other folks, even civil I can't -- SYLVIA Allen. She voted against the omnibus bill.

Luige Del Puerto: We asked why and she basically refused to give a reason.

Mary K Reinhart: She reluctantly voted for the AHCCCS elimination as well.

Ted Simons: Are we seeing more resistance to Russell Pearce's ideas or maybe just the natural eastbound and flow of things -- ebb and flow of things.

Dennis Welch: Maybe now people are looking at facing these decisions and looking at actually voting on this stuff and saying, hey, maybe this is a bridge too far.

Mary K Reinhart: It really might be a tipping point.

Dennis Welch: This might be. Elimination of AHCCCS might be the tipping point. [Laughter]

Luige Del Puerto: And it's a question whether Russell Pearce can get it out of the chamber or legislature and he's been successful pushing this type of legislation. He got 1070 and former Governor Janet Napolitano and Jan Brewer signed this one. I wouldn't underestimate his determination.

Ted Simons: We'll stop it there. Thanks for joining us.

Mary K. Reinhart:Arizona Republic;Dennis Welch:Arizona Guardian;Luige del Puerto:Arizona Capitol Times;

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 26

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

Rachel Khong
May 29

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Super Why characters

Join a Super Why Reading Camp to play, learn and grow

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: