Jpurnalists Roundtable: Year-End Review

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Arizona journalists — Ricardo Pimentel, columnist and editorial board member; The Arizona Republic; Ruben Hernandez, reporter, The Business Journal; Richard Ruelas, reporter, The Arizona Republic — discuss the year’s top stories and offer their predictions for 2004. Find out their perspectives on the Democratic presidential nominees, Latino political participation, the Guest Worker Program, the DREAM Act, and Protect Arizona Now initiative.

>>José Cárdenas:
Good evening, I'm Jose Cardenas, and welcome to a special edition of "Horizonte."

>>> Tonight we'll talk to a panel of three journalists about controversial issues that made news this year. What will happen in 2004 to the guest worker bill? Will the Arizona legislature pass a law authorizing driver's licenses to undocumented workers? Who will win the Democratic presidential nomination? And will the winner have a Latino running mate in 2004? Over the next half hour, our panel of journalists will delve into several of the top issues affecting Latinos in 2003, and they'll give us their predictions on those important issues for 2004.

>> José Cárdenas:
One of the most controversial issues in the valley next year is the Protect Arizona Now initiative. With a strong amount of support, the initiative will more than likely make it to the ballot. It would require proof of citizenship to register to vote, and would prohibit undocumented workers from receiving state benefits. Here is more about the initiative.

>> Rusty Childress:
It's very difficult to flourish economically in an area that's populated with illegal aliens.

>> Reporter:
Rusty Childress and Kathy McKee are behind the initiative known as Protect Arizona Now. The measure, if it becomes law, would require Arizonans to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote and also require those who use state-funded services from libraries to universities to provide proof of legal residency.

>> Rusty Childress:
I was just a citizen that was frustrated with the system and the lack of desire on the politicians' action plan to do anything about this problem. As far as I could see.

>> Reporter:
The problem, Childress and McKee claim is undocumented immigrants who commit voter fraud and use state-funded services, and politician who is have allowed this alleged abuse to happen.

>>Kathy McKee:
I have never in my life seen in America a time when our government officials, state, local and federal, not only blink at the law or ignore the law, but openly violate the law.

>> Reporter:
A similar measure banning illegal immigrants passed in California in the mid-199s, but the courts ruled it was unconstitutional. Backers of the Arizona initiative have removed the provision regarding K-12 legislation and say their legislation will pass the constitutionality test.

>>Kathy McKee:
I looked at the original 187 and picked out what I thought might work from that and picked up stuff from the legislature that had already introduced. I knew they had looked at that legally before they would introduce a bill, and we had some private attorneys look at it and make it legally perfect.

>> Daniel Ortega:
They say that the experience in California is going to add to their being able to implement this. I beg to differ.

>> Reporter:
Daniel Ortega is the chairman of the civil rights committee of the Phoenix based Hispanic bar association.

>> Daniel Ortega:
That has the same basic intent as it did in California, and I don't believe that this law, if passed will be enforceable, much like the California law in comparison. It is my opinion, generally, that the proof of citizenship for voting is going to be struck down by the Department of Justice. It clearly violates the Voting Rights Act in that it will lead yet to another hurdle or another obstacle for people of color to vote in the state of Arizona, and particularly the Hispanic community.

>> Rusty Childress:
Why should we have to do the meeting in English and Spanish and take up all of our time, you know?

>> Reporter:
Childress and McKee who heads the Arizona chapter of citizens against illegal immigration don't hide the fact that the initiative is one part of a broader campaign against undocumented migration. Aside from their contention that immigrants receive more than they give to the U.S. economy, their web site claims that the initiative is intended to prevent the destruction of our culture.

>> Kathy McKee:
What we mean is, number one, the language. We're having to pay, I think, $80,000 in Phoenix to have the water bills printed in bilingual -- bilingually. And I don't know how much the election office spends to print voter registration cards and ballots in Spanish also, which just makes me crazy. If you are a citizen to vote, it's still the law that you be fluent enough to pass the citizenship test. This is ridiculous to spend the money to make it bilingual society. Part of the culture is dress, diet, though that means different things to different people. I like grits and collard greens, but I think that whatever is our culture, and I think that is debatable, what is the very essence of our culture, we should be allowed to keep it without having to finance second languages and other cultural influence from other countries.

>> Rusty Childress:
Everyone is looking for the American dream, and we need to be careful that we don't become the third world country that a lot of these illegal aliens are running from.

>> Daniel Ortega:
They are extremists. I don't believe they represent the majority of the people of the state of Arizona. I believe the majority of the people of the state of Arizona, if they look deeply into this matter, and if they study it and if they don't respond to it emotionally and don't respond it on the basis of half truth or outright lies.

>> Kathy McKee:
What is racist about the word "everybody" or about the word" all" what's extremist about the vast majority of the people in the country wanting the laws to be enforced.

>> Reporter:
When asked about evidence to support their claim, Childress and McKee turn to their opponents.

>> Rusty Childress:
I think part of the proof is the defensiveness on the part of some people that are looking at this initiative. You know, this is, again, this is something that affects everyone equally, and the laws are already on the books.

>> Kathy McKee: For these nay sayers who have their heads I don't know where that want to say it's not a problem, then why are they so worried? If it's not a serious problem they wouldn't be so hysterical.

>> Reporter:
It's not just minorities and immigrants rights group who say the initiative is a bad idea, the Arizona congressional delegation is against it.

>> Kathy McKee:
What I have to laugh about, they are saying these initiatives is not effective. Who has a clue as to what's effective. Under their watch it has quintupled. They are clueless as to what it takes.

>> Rusty Childress:
My mission is to spur debate. I declare victory on that so far, because people are able to learn more about the situation, how it affects them, what the impacts are fiscally, and in the long run, I think that the state is going to be better off for, you know, looking at this problem.

>> Daniel Ortega:
They don't like the fact that America, as they see it, a monolingual America, a majority Anglo America is before their eyes, okay? Turning into something more diverse, and something more if you have an Anglo America that's in the majority. The bottom line is this one, get used to it.

>> Reporter:
To get the measure on the ballot, supporters must gather 122,000 signatures by next summer. They say that won't be a problem.

>> José Cárdenas:
Three local journalists are here tonight to discuss this year's top Latino political issues and to make their predictions for 2004. Tonight's topics include the guest worker program, the Protect Arizona Now initiative, the dream act, the surge in Latino political participation in 2003 and other top stories that made headlines this year. Ricardo Pimentel, nationally syndicated editorial columnist for "The Arizona Republic," Richard Ruelas, reporter for "The Arizona Republic," and Ruben Hernandez, reporter for the "Phoenix Business Journal." Welcome. Let's begin by assuming that Protect Arizona Now gets on the ballot and that it wins, and that it survives court challenges. What will be the practical impact in Arizona, Richard?

>> Richard Ruelas:
Zero, which is why I've volunteered to the committee to pass the thing. There is negative effects against citizens who maybe are transit or mobile or who don't have a permanent address on a utility bill to show at the polls. The larger thing, the initiative will defeat the arguments that illegal arguments are abusing welfare and are voting in mass numbers. It's not happening. This initiative will prove it.

>> José Cárdenas:
Ruben, do you agree?

>> Ruben Hernandez:
I agree it's not going to do anything legally or do anything to change any laws that aren't in place now to protect us from what these people say we need protection from, but I think it's going to divide -- Protect Arizona Now is going to divide Arizona now, should it pass, and that's the most damaging aspect of it, is that it's going pit people against people, culture against culture and that will have a lasting effect beyond the legal ramifications of it. And that's what the media should be looking at as they cover this thing, continuing story.

>> José Cárdenas:
Ricardo are you going to gather signatures for the initiative?

>> Ricardo Pimentel:
I probably won't be buying a Buick this year, either. The biggest effect of this initiative, if it gets on the ballot will be to give momentum to other such initiatives, even worse. I will take the organizers at that their word that this is just the first step of a larger process for them, and I also take them at their word that they are fearful about the destruction of their culture, not my culture. I think this is a fear that permeates their whole argument.

>> José Cárdenas:
What would be worse? What would you anticipate would be the next initiative to come from these people?

>> Ricardo Pimentel:
Something more akin to 187 that would, in their view, hold up to constitutional scrutiny, something like doctors, perhaps or teachers reporting undocumented immigrants. In other words, stepping up the enforcement without fully taking into account the push and pull and the hypocrisy in the whole immigration debate.

>> Richard Ruelas:
It is strange when they talk about a need for this initiative, they talk about the money we're spending on healthcare and education, neither of which are addressed in this initiative, but they are using that fear and these statistics to sort of drive an anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant bias that is poisonous.

>>Ricardo Pimentel:
They hope they will be part of a national movement.

>> José Cárdenas:
Earlier this year we had a guest that I asked if Protect Arizona Now was reflective of a nationwide sentiment. He thought it was more of a local thing, in part, because we are a border state. Do you agree with that, Ruben?

>>Ruben Hernandez:
I do agree with that. I think there is a lot of frustration, especially among the border residents, up to Phoenix, and if you count that as the border, of the lack of activity and the lack of taking position on the immigration issue by the federal government. I think the fact that local hospitals have to pay out of their own pockets for healthcare that they have to provide to immigrants by law. These are starting to well up, and I think one of the ways to address it is not through initiatives such as Protect Arizona Now, but at the federal level and actually address these immigration issues realistically. I think that's the point these folks are trying to make ultimately.

>> José Cárdenas:
Time for predictions will it get on the ballot?

>> Richard Ruelas:
I don't think it will get on the ballot. I think the stakes are too big and there is too many signatures to get.

>> José Cárdenas:
So I assume you also think if that got on the ballot it will not pass.

>> Ruben Hernandez:
If it gets on the ballot I think it will bass.

>>Richard Ruelas:
I predict it will get on the ballot but it won't pass.

>> José Cárdenas: Ricardo.

>> Ricardo Pimentel:
It won't get on the ballot, but if it does, it will pass.

>>José Cárdenas:
What about surviving court challenges? You heard Danny Ortega talking about that it will be struck down immediately.

>> Ricardo Pimentel:
I think it's unclear because it requires all residents to show the identification, and that might pass muster with the Justice Department.

>> José Cárdenas:
Ruben, you talked about the federal immigration issues, the overarching issues, and we had our entire congressional delegation come out against Protect Arizona Now initiative, but they are split on various immigration proposals in congress. Perhaps one of the most significant examples of this dichotomy in terms of Protect Arizona Now and the federal issues is congressman Hayworth came out against Arizona now and he writes a column for "The Arizona Republic" using the same kind of inflammatory rhetoric that was used in connection with 187 in California. How do you explain that?

>> Ruben Hernandez:
Well, I think these kind of immigration issues have to be settled and looked at and analyzed on the issues and not the emotion. And I think that it is a contradictory think, especially for Republicans. There is a group of Latino Republicans that have just come out and they have just associated -- one of the first things they did was dish associated this from this initiative. I think our immigration -- looking at our immigration issues, that we are contradictory, we're almost schizophrenic. Some of us migrate to the extremes when we talk about immigration because as I mentioned before, the frustration level. So it doesn't surprise me that Hayworth would do that. A lot of us, even in the Latino community, there are conservatives that believe that Rusty Childress and his group, that extreme measures have to be taken, while there is more of us that think that we have to take moderate looks at these things, and proceed in that manner, in an issue-oriented not an emotional oriented way.

>> José Cárdenas:
They use rhetoric to Protect Arizona Now in opposing many of the federal proposals on immigration. What do you make of that?

>> Ruben Hernandez:
He sees clear political advantage. He knows that there are a lot of folks out there who have a knee jerk reaction to immigration, but that isn't a plurality. So he knows there is a great muddled middle that cannot understand the issue and can be swayed by rhetoric to support him and to coalesce around someone who promises to do something the feds have not done, which is enact broad immigration reform. I'm not sure I would like Hayworth's broad immigration reform. It is heavy on the stick, not could go any sent of the need for care at all. And as it not could go any sent of the push and pull that exists.

>>José Cárdenas:
Presumably the administration is appealing to that same group in the middle and you have President Bush and homeland Secretary Ridge saying rather positive things about immigration reform and the need for that. Richard what do you make of it?

>> Richard Ruelas:
We see practicality and politics. There are industries that depend on immigrant label and there is no way to push as much as some people would want to push all of the Mexicans back across the border. We're seeing some level heads start coming up with solutions, and you have President Bush, Congressman Hayworth senators McCain and Kyl sort of trying to stake out their claim on the issue, not -- especially in Hayworth's case, not wanting to turn his back on his conservative base of staunch Republicans in Mesa who are saying yes, there's something wrong and we need to do something, and yet, knowing that this anti-immigrant rhetoric is not helpful to anybody. I think you saw Protect Arizona Now is not going to pass, so he feels it's okay to stomp on that one, but yet let's have the clear act. Let's start using some of these words, because there is no harm, he sees politically in sort of fanning these flames for a little longer.

>> José Cárdenas:
You saw that President Bush made it clear that he's opposed to broad-based amnesty. Do you think there will be any amnesty in the guest worker bill?

>> Richard Ruelas:
I think there will be regularization of status.

>> Ricardo Pimentel:
The term is "earned legalization" that's the catch word these days. And the guest worker they call the McCain-Flake bill has an earned legalization provision as does other legislation. So while he may not say -- while he says he may not like amnesty, I'm not sure he is discounting some form of earned legalization.

>> José Cárdenas:
What about one of the other provision in congress, the Dream Act? Ruben, do you think that's going to pass?

>> Ruben Hernandez:
It's in the senate right now. It wasn't moved along in the last session. I think we're back in January. You know, it's a tough call on that one. It's an act that appeals to your humanitarian instincts but practically and politically, I don't think it's going to pass to tell you the truth.

>> Ruben Hernandez:
It appeals to humanitarian instincts because it will legalize undocumented workers' children?

>> Ruben Hernandez:
Correct. There is another group that's high profile that spurred the introduction of this act, and they've just been given a postponement of their deportation, but again, if congress doesn't act, it's only a postponement and they could be deported and, you know, it could be a tragedy, but you know, looking at politically and practically, it's going to be tough for it to pass.

>> Richard Ruelas:
I think the Dream Act will pass. It's one of those that does run up against -- I mean, the name is apt, "dreams." A lot of the rhetoric doesn't apply to these children. They've either earned a high school degree and are two years into college or they've served time into the military, served that way. And so there is no more rhetoric of they are here to feed off of the system, they are here to just live off the taxpayers. These are successful children. I would hope that we would see -- we've seen the four children -- four guys from the high school come forward and make themselves kind of public figures in this. There are a lot of students at ASU, University of Arizona, NAU, that could tell their stories and let the public see that this is something that's actually happening in mass sums.

>> José Cárdenas:
The legislation we talked about so far would make it easier for people to stay. What about the clear bill, which would authorize local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws?

>> Ricardo Pimentel:
I don't think it has a chance. People recognize it as being an extreme measure and while the Dream Act will appeal to their humanitarian instincts not holding children responsible for the alleged sins of their fathers, clear act opens a whole Pandora's box of racial profiling that may not sit well with senators and congressman.

>> José Cárdenas:
Your prediction for 2004 will we see a guest worker bill?

>> Ricardo Pimentel:
No.

>> José Cárdenas:
Ruben?

>> Ruben Hernandez:
Not in 2004.

>> Richard Ruelas:
I think we will see something on the guest worker bill.

>>José Cárdenas:
An act coming out of congress?

>> Richard Ruelas:
Yes.

>> Ricardo Pimentel:
We might see something on farm workers alone, but not a broad guest worker program.

>> José Cárdenas:
Let's move on more broadly to Latino influence. One of the headlines was that Latinos would become the largest minority in the country. What does that mean to Latinos? Ricardo?

>> Ricardo Pimentel:
It means we are a bigger niche, but still just a niche in the electorate, but one big enough that they have to pay attention because the blue and red states were so close that every niche counts. George Bush knows captured 35% of the Latino vote last time pep knows his own analysis shows that unless he captures even more of the Latino vote and captures more of the black vote, he loses. So he knows that this is a niche he has to go after.

>> José Cárdenas:
Have we seen any signs of this greater reflection of Latino voting power in the campaigns themselves?

>> Richard Ruelas:
We're seeing more candidates come and try their Spanish out at black tie dinners. I think it's tough because we have become a larger minority group, but we're still a very large nonvoting minority group. Until that starts changing, until we see more voters energized and going to the polls, it's going to be a niche.

>> Ricardo Pimentel:
It's compound bide the fact that we are so young, disproportionately under the age of 18, so can't vote, and have citizenship issues. That win knows down the niche even more. Still an important niche.

>> José Cárdenas:
Some suggest that the Latino support for Schwarzenegger and Bush is a reflection of those personalities of the candidates than appeal to the Latinos. Do you agree with that?

>> Ruben Hernandez:
Not totally. There is a growing movement of conservatism within the community, Latino community, that's what that reflects. In Arizona itself, there has been a swing from registering as Democrats to more a greater percentage registering as Republicans, and that's just the way the trend seems to be going. That's not a bad thing totally, because we're not a monolithic community and there are two sides to every issue and we need to look at both sides to really find where the middle is. But that -- you know, that conservative swing is happening, and I think it's reflected in the vote for bush and also for Schwarzenegger.

>> José Cárdenas:
Which Democratic candidate appeals most to the Latino electorate? Richard?

>> Richard Ruelas:
Do any of them? I have no idea which one would appeal to most. I think it's scattered. I think because, again, it's a niche that is not defined. I haven't heard many of them speak bad Spanish on the campaign trail.

>> I have no idea.

>>José Cárdenas:
Do you think we can expect to see a Hispanic vice presidential candidate?

>>Ricardo Pimentel:
No, I think we will see a Dean/Clark ticket.

>> José Cárdenas: W
ho will win the presidential election?

>> Richard Ruelas:
Okay, I'll let my optimism go, drive me along, Dean.

>> José Cárdenas:
You are assuming Dean will be there?

>> Ruben Hernandez:
I'm going to cast my vote for Kerry. I think he's --

>> José Cárdenas:
Who do you think will win?

>> Ruben Hernandez: I think Kerry will win.

>> Richard Ruelas:
I'll take that bet. I think money talks in politics. Bush has it. Bush wins.

>> José Cárdenas:
Let's go to local politics. We have a race in Mesa between an incumbent mayor, Keno Hawker and a community activist, Teresa Bryce Humes. What do you think will happen?

>> Richard Ruelas:
Keno Hawker, again will win, but I think the fact that he has someone running against him, someone who is a Latina shows what needs to happen for this niche community to gain more momentum. People coming out of semi public life and throwing their hat in the ring for political office shows an influence that's beyond -- that's what needs to happen to get Latinos on the political map.

>>José Cárdenas:
Ruben, what's your take?

>> Ruben Hernandez:
She's a very capable candidate. She's not to be scoffed at and she's signed on Davidson who used to be Keno Hawker's advisor. So that was a very smart move to get her known and accepted by a lot of the Mesa Community. She's been an advocate since '87 doing housing in Mesa. Part of what she wants to do as part of that advocacy is bring up Latino issues in the election, even if she doesn't get elected, she will have brought these out in the campaign. At least they will be discussed because I think there is a feeling in the Mesa Community, the Mesa citizens association that their voices weren't being heard. Their complaints weren't being heard, and I think that's partly why she decided to run. She can appeal to a wide and general electorate. I like her.

>> José Cárdenas:
Ricardo, the Hispanic caucus in the state legislature played a more prominent role. Part of that is because there is a Democratic Governor. What's your take on that? Do you think they will play a significant role this year and particularly under the current leadership?

>> Ricardo Pimentel:
I have a lot of respect for John, but unless the numbers increase in the caucus, then his power is limited. You know from folks I've talked to, he was effective on CPS, and less effective on the budget that was all sort of grunt work done in the senate, because the votes are closer, and they have to deal. I think he's a great opposition politician. I think he holds Republicans' feet to the fire and tells them some painful truth and also tells the rest of us those truth as well.

>> José Cárdenas:
We've got just a few seconds. Your number one prediction for next year, each year.

>> Richard Ruelas:
Outside of Bush sweeping to reelection, come back to me.

>> Ruben Hernandez:
Well, my number one prediction, is that the dropout problem we have here among the Latino community and particularly among our students, won't be solved. So I'm playing it very, very safe. But there has been progress on that.

>> José Cárdenas:
I'll let you have the last word on that.

>>> That's our show. We look forward to talking to you again next year. That's our show for tonight and the year. "Horizonte" will resume in January. Please join us after the holidays.

Ricardo Pimentel: Nationally syndicated editorial columnist for "The Arizona Republic;

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