Journalists Roundtable – Year-End Review

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Three local journalists discuss the headlines and issues that impacted the Latino community in 2004 as well as make predictions for issues that will make news and affect Hispanics in 2005. Host José Cárdenas talks to Richard de Uriarte, Editorial Writer for the Arizona Republic, Richard Ruelas, Columnist for the Arizona Republic, and Ruben Hernandez, Reporter with The Phoenix Business Journal.

José Cárdenas:
Good evening, I'm José CárdenasJose Cardenas. Welcome to a special edition of "Horizonte". Tonight we'll talk to a panel of journalists about issues that made news and affected the Hispanic community this year. What will happen with proposition 200 in 2005, the controversial measure passed by voters. It asks state and local government workers to check the immigration status of everyone applying for non-federally mandated public benefits and requires proof of citizenship when registering and going to vote. Will President Bush's plans to reform immigration policy by proposing a guest worker program with the border patrol help ease the undocumented immigrants issue? Over the next half-hour, our journalists will talk about news headlines impacting Latinos in the 2004. They'll also give us their predictions on important issues for 2005. That's next on "Horizonte".

>> Announcer:
"Horizonte" is made possible by the friends of Channel 8, members who provide financial support to this Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>>José Cárdenas:
Our panel of journalists includes Ruben Hernandez, reporter for the Phoenix business journal, Richard Ruelas. Columnist with the Arizona republic, and Richard de Uriarte, editorial writer also with the Arizona Republic. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us on our special year-end show. Last year the subject of discussion at this show was Proposition 200, what it was going to do, whether it was going to pass. It has dominated the news this year, and we have a decision by the Federal District Court to lift the restraining order. What should we expect next by way of legal proceedings? Richard?

>> Richard Ruelas:
There will be a lot of battles that will be very complicated on a federal level. Meanwhile, agencies are going to have to implement this thing, they have started. I think what you're going to see in the year ahead is frustration. We have seen it in the form of the splinter group of people who want more. I think it's going to become apparent to people that the way Terry Goddard the way the attorney general has applied the law only applies to welfare benefits. It was being done. If you went to get welfare benefits, your legal status was being checked. Prop 200 will have no practical effect. That will cause a lot of anger among people who are frustrated about this issue and want to do something about undocumented immigrants, so you're going to see a lot of steps to try to make this broader and try to do something.

>>José Cárdenas:
One of them being the lawsuit you referred to which says it is broader.

>> Richard Ruelas:
They are using some of the campaign scare tactics. During the campaign a lot of people were putting on ads saying this might affect domestic violence victims, might affect paramedics service, city parks and a whole lot of things that didn't make sense. Randy Pullen said that's a good idea, let's try to make it apply to libraries, paramedic services.

>>José Cárdenas:
Richard, why did it pass?

>> Richard De Uriarte:
I think Proposition 200, Protect Arizona Now, passed because it struck, a common sense chord, saying who could be against voter fraud. People, ordinary people going to the polls who say they are somebody and nobody really checks when you go to the polls and to a number of people that sounds crazy. Who could be for welfare fraud? It's amazing that you had 46% voted against this.

>>José Cárdenas:
That's one of the interesting things, the initial poll showed like 74% approval and dropped to the low 50s by the time it actually passed. Do you think with another couple of weeks it would have been defeated?

>> Richard de Uriarte:
I think it could be. I think that you're right, the campaign against Prop 200, although late in starting out and getting the message out, what the problem was is clearly in the early stages, the Hispanic community was bearing all the brunt. It was not a broad-based committee or campaign to say this is going to affect Arizona in a number of ways, be very, very divisive. And as Richard says, not actually accomplish very much for all the expense and bitter feelings and that kind of thing. And that's what really the campaign became in the later stages, and actually had more than a million dollars to offer that to voters, and you saw a shrinking from that 72% in a matter of weeks to 55, 56% and I think that the pro-Prop 200 folks also had made numerous mistakes.

>>José Cárdenas:
Petitions.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
Petitions were, two sets of petitions went out with different items. They had fighting between a faction led by Rusty Childress and Kathy McKee who supported this. I think Proposition 200 went to a certain ambivalence about illegal immigration.

>>José Cárdenas:
What's the impact on business by the passage of Proposition 200 and now the judge says it can be enforced?

>> Ruben Hernandez:
The approval of Proposition 200 was plainly a reaction to dissatisfaction with the federal immigration policy. President Bush called our policy not working, number one, and being without compassion, number two. I think most people feel that it's an out of control policy. In terms of economic reality, I think it has a precedent in the policy of former Governor Evan Mecham, with the Martin Luther King Junior situation, the holiday, that he thought it was a good thing and he had good rationale for not implementing was former Governor Babbitt had implemented on his way out. The economic implications were that we didn't get a lot of conventions that might have come here. I think you're going to see the same thing happen with Proposition 200.

>>José Cárdenas:
The boycott and so forth. Will this be worse? What we're talking about people who will be fearful about going to work, getting benefits.

>> Ruben Hernandez:
That is part of the impact. It will have a dampening effect on the spending of these folks. They're not going to want to go out as much. When you're not feeling good about being out in a society, you're not going to spend as much. The reality is that they spend a lot. Their purchasing power is growing. They are the construction workers. So they affect different bases and different economic sectors. But talking over at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, they are getting calls from national organizations, saying, What's going to happen when we go to Arizona?

>> Richard Ruelas:
I don't know if that would be a good parallel for MLK. Martin Luther King, although a controversial figure, had a lot of support in the community. I don't think there's a lot of people, the initial poll number shows 70%, I don't think there's a lot of rallying support for undocumented immigrants. It might have an effect on people who right now are employed in construction, are employed in restaurants and as landscapers who decide, you know, maybe I'll Go to Nevada, maybe I'll go to Montana or Illinois where the climate is not so harsh for people like them.

>> Richard de Uriarte: Interestingly, you have many, many trends and phenomena growing. Clearly, other states are interested in Prop 200-like guidelines themselves.

>>José Cárdenas:
This would be the test state.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
And other states will likely put it in their ballots in 2005, 2006. And yet, Arizona typically in both Republican and Democrat circles are hoping they can attract Latino and citizens for their parties. As Ruben mentioned, we have an economic stake in the growth, the purchasing power, plus the workers they provide. It's clearly as we look at this, the winter, December and January, without 10s of thousands who are -- who have returned, many of them, of course, are legal returning for the holidays to Mexico, the level of activities will be lower, especially in the industries that are growing, landscaping, tourism, construction.

>> Richard Ruelas:
The campaign really showed that immigration is a third rail. The business interests were funding a lot of it and wanted to defeat 200. When the politicians got involved, they told the Latino leaders in the state, move back if you wouldn't mind. We don't want to make this a brown versus white issue.

>>José Cárdenas:
Was that a good decision?

>> Richard Ruelas:
I think it hurt getting out some Latino voters. It might have, by having Alfredo Gutierrez at news conferences, it might have stopped some people from voting against it.

>>José Cárdenas:
You indicated that Prop 200 might not do anything positive at least in terms of what the proponents were asking for. Is there anything else good that might come of the passage of proposition 200?

>> Ruben Hernandez:
I think it will prompt at some level the federal government to look at the issue I think that's probably the bottom line, to prompt some kind of action this year. I think it's higher on the agenda, not because of just the passage here but among factors going between Mexico and the United States and nationally. They have to look at what happened here, and the leaders in our Congress who are carrying that message.

>> Richard de Uriarte:
I'm not sure about the leadership, but it's interesting that Mexicans who are nationals who are living in the United States legally and permanently, many have not applied for citizenship. It's a comfortable situation. You're proud of our own heritage, as long as you're legal and not having a problem. The proposition may have the same effect as in California, an uprise, a surge in applying for citizenship. The people are looking at Latinos as potential third rail politics or a problem you go get citizenship. Civics classes and document preparers have noticed an uptake in recent months.

>>José Cárdenas:
Part of that may be the Mexican government's Program of renewal that allows for applying for U.S. citizenship and retain Mexican citizenship.

>> Richard Ruelas:
One positive thing that can come out of Prop 200 is that we can dispense with the argument and prove that illegal immigrants do not get state welfare benefits and they don't vote.

>>José Cárdenas:
What about increasing activism of the younger generation? There have been a few stories in the papers about that being one of the results of Prop 200? Do you think that will last very long or do you think it's initial reaction?

>> Richard Ruelas:
I hope with the Prop 200 and the defeat of John Kerry that the surge we saw in activism among young voters doesn't die away just because they didn't get their way this election.

José Cárdenas:
Speaking broadly about the immigration issue that prompted at least in some part Prop 200, what about the border? This year, the efforts to strengthen the border, successful, unsuccessful? What kind of year was it in terms of immigration?

>> Richard De Uriarte:
I think as Ruben talked about it, it put more focus. I think it is the third rail of politics. I don't expect immigration reform to pass. I think that it's too complicated and you have too many factions. I think clearly it is something that needs to be addressed. But the only thing really that will lower the number of illegals here is to make the ones who are here regularized. Use an employer sanction and provide a guest worker program. I don't think there's much call for any of those. And to improve Mexico's economy. I think all those things are complicated and long term.

>> Richard Ruelas:
Especially the one that no one is going to touch, is the sanctions on business. No guest worker program will work unless businesses are penalized harshly if they hire someone illegally. And right now the law --

>> Richard De Uriarte:
It's against the law, it's illegal now to do that except in certain instances, but there are ways to get out of it.

>> Richard Ruelas:
Very hard to break the law.

>> Richard De Uriarte:
If my son-in-law, the general manager of a restaurant, accepts a Social Security card saying that Juan Estrada is here, he will take it. If he comes back tomorrow saying his name is Jose Jimenez, he will take it.

>> Richard Ruelas:
The Social Security number could be a string of 0s, or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

>>José Cárdenas:
Are employer sanctions going to happen?

>>Ruben Hernandez:
No way they're going to happen. Not in this political world.

>>José Cárdenas:
Does that mean then, that there can be no effective guest worker program? Do you agree with the two Richards that we're going not going to see a guest worker program this year?

>> Ruben Hernandez:
The economic reality is we're always going to need them so there has to be in the long term some way to work them into our society so that they're not vacating segments of the economic sector. Not this year.

>> Richard Ruelas:
I think that the businesses will accept -- if they can find a guest worker program to their liking, they will accept some light punishment because they'll use the program. If it's going to happen, it has to happen this term, this coming year because if you get further into Bush's term he becomes a lame duck and you have the representatives and senators and now the presidential election comes into play. People might want to touch it or get close to it now, but as we get close to the next election, no.

>>José Cárdenas:
What's going to be the impact of the coyotes, the increasing violence, the most notable was the battle on I-10 when President Fox was here.

>> Richard Ruelas:
We're seeing stash houses all over the map of Phoenix. It's not concentrated in south and west Phoenix anymore. They're in exclusive neighborhoods all over.

>>José Cárdenas:
If anything, that would seem to be one reason to have a guest worker program, to eliminate the incentive to do that.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Absolutely.

>>José Cárdenas:
If anything, it's probably fueled the passions of those people who prop 200 supports.

>> Richard De Uriarte:
That's why this story is so multi dimensional, this issue is so complicated. What sounds good won't work, and the operation of the coyotes which create an enormous violent crime problem in the valley is a direct result of a non-functioning immigration system that Ruben addressed earlier.

>> Richard Ruelas:
There was a time when if we found a body in the desert we assumed it was someone who crossed, now if we find a body in the desert, it's somebody who was dumped after a shooting. The brazenness of the violence is getting harsher.

>>José Cárdenas:
The recent big issue is the presidential election and more specifically the Latino vote. Richard, what happened there and what is the potential for the future?

>> Richard De Uriarte:
I think that -- first of all, both candidates and both campaigns look to Hispanic voters, whether they are Cuban-Americans in Florida, Mexican-Americans in northern New Mexico or in Arizona, these were more of a target. There was more money spent, there were more campaigns. This was not just eating a taco and wearing a sombrero.

>>José Cárdenas:
Jose Ramos, television anchor and author, we had him on the show, his newest book said Latinos would decide the election. Did they?

>> Richard De Uriarte:
No. They are up for grabs in a certain sense.

>>José Cárdenas:
Traditional numbers for the Democratic Party, would the election have gone the other way?

>> Richard Ruelas:
Absolutely. I think you have seen is that Latinos are not this block anymore.

>> Richard De Uriarte:
Go to south Phoenix and the votes certainly for Prop 200, you cannot pigeon hole people as easily. Clearly, the Democratic Party has an advantage with Mexican-American voters. But as people become more affluent or are blocked in certain ways from statewide leadership, they find other options.

>> Ruben Hernandez:
I think this raised the curtain on the future of politics in the United States, myself, this last election, because it shows how diverse our community is. Our community has been asking for diversity in all sectors of our society for a long time. Now it's come home to roost. In our community, we're finding we're as diverse as we would want others to be.

>> Richard Ruelas:
We're seeing Evangelical churches recruiting in Spanish speaking areas.

>>José Cárdenas:
How much of a role did the Catholic Church play in the Hispanic vote this year?

>> Richard De Uriarte:
I'm not sure I can answer that. The parishes that I learned about were talking about far more conservative social issues. There is research to suggest that strikes a chord with conservative Hispanic --


>>José Cárdenas:
We have a new bishop who is fairly conservative political issues.

>> Richard Ruelas:
the religious vote was not dominated by the Catholic vote, it was the Evangelical Christians and those who call themselves religious people.

>> Richard De Uriarte:
Arizona had several opportunities to elect Republicans, ethics. Alberto Gutierrez for a Senate district in north central Phoenix, and Scottsdale. Andrew Pacheco, enormously qualified candidate for county attorney. Both were defeated. Jaime Molera was defeated in the primary in 2002 for state school superintendent.

>> Richard Ruelas:
Pacheco lost to a candidate who had stop illegal immigration on his campaign.

>>José Cárdenas :
We had some real rising stars in the Republican party saying the passage of Prop 200 would hurt efforts for the Republican party to recruit Hispanics. Can you agree with that?

>> Richard Ruelas:
I think that it hurt their efforts to get elected because, again, it's hard to vote yes on Prop 200 and vote for Gutierrez and Lopez.

>> Richard De Uriarte:
Jose, there seems to be a dichotomy. The leadership of the Republican and Democratic Party want to court the rising numbers. It's a numbers game. Politics is numbers. Latino population is rising, Latino voters will rise in subsequent elections as they did in California. So both parties want to look at that. But yet, when you come down to it, who is the state Republican national committeeman? Randy Pullen.

>>José Cárdenas:
Are we going to see a permanent shift in numbers to the Republican Party? You've got President Bush with recent appointments of Carlos Gutierrez as the secretary of commerce and Alberto Gonzalez as the attorney general. Is that pressing a greater shift to the Republican Party?

>> Ruben Hernandez:
I think everybody falls into one of two categories. Matter of fact, I think the fastest growing segments are the independents.

>> Richard De Uriarte:
Precisely right.

>>José Cárdenas:
Do you see Hispanics moving into that category?

>> Ruben Hernandez:
Very much. In great numbers.

>> Richard De Uriarte:
Independents used to be about 10%. Now in Arizona, they're 23.

>> Richard Ruelas:
I think Bush making the appointments shows that he thinks the Republicans can capture a large segment of the Hispanics. As proud as I am that there's going to be a Hispanic attorney general, I wish it wasn't the guy who called the Geneva Convention quaint.

>>José Cárdenas:
Well that will be the subject of a different show. Let me ask you this: Day labor centers, huge issue here. Give us latest on that.

>> Richard Ruelas:
It's sort of caught in a city bureaucratic trap. They say it's going to be open just for a little while, the city only allows it to be open for a little while or it's got to be permanent or closed. The city council is pretty much behind it, but they are up for election again. You'll have a lot of pressure from the Palomino neighborhood who don't like it because they think we're providing a service to people who are here illegally. Second, they're fearful it's going to expand to the Home Depot in their neighborhood. You're going to see city Council getting jittery about whether we want to make it permanent.

>> Richard De Uriarte:
I take a little different tact. I think the people who are most politically potent who are against the day labor centers are neighborhood activists who don't want it in their neighborhood and they want things absolutely written in stone, very regulated, very restrictive, that kind of thing. The informal economy that the day labor is the complete polar opposite of highly regulated clearly to me, the day labor center in the Palomino area has been effective. It has softened the impact of day laborers hanging on bell, hanging on Bell, hanging on Cave Creek, and jumping in cars, urinating on the walls.

>>José Cárdenas:
I want to make sure we get to our predictions. Quick question before we get to that, though. There are a lot of positives this year, too, for Hispanics. The Latino bank, Latino perspectives, Latino futures. What do you see in the business world for Hispanics?

>> Ruben Hernandez:
What I'm seeing in the business world are more Hispanics starting businesses, whether it be self-employed, whether it be under 10 employees. They are starting in greater numbers across the country. More businesses. I think that's real positive for our economy. They're entrepreneurial. They are hard working. They are traits that passed on from the blue-collar level. Now it's starting to come from the white-collar level.

>>José Cárdenas:
We have about a minute and a half. Who are the Hispanics to watch in 2005?

>> Ruben Hernandez:
I like Rebecca Rios, a new legislator, mentored by her dad, a wily old politician. I think she's going to make a splash slowly, but probably at some point a bigger splash.

>> Richard Ruelas:
We'll see representative Ben Miranda who is going to use Prop 200 as sort of a launching point to try to make the people who are here illegally some sort of political force.

>>José Cárdenas:
What about you, Richard?

>> Richard De Uriarte:
I first tell Ruben to be careful with the adjective old. Pete Rios is younger than I.

>>José Cárdenas:
I've been duly warned.

>> Richard De Uriarte:
I think the guy probably most people haven't heard of, over time will be a very important person is Sammy. He's a firefighter, head of the bomberos, has been active in the Hispanic community for landing of the Cesar Chavez Foundation. But that's another story. There are a lot of people out there, Jose.

>>José Cárdenas:
Richard, in deference to your great age, you get the last word. We have about 30 seconds left. The big story of 2005?

>> Richard De Uriarte:
No on immigration reform.

>>José Cárdenas:
Thank you, gentleman. We'll see you next year how you all did with your predictions.

>>José Cárdenas:
As always, to see a transcript of tonight's show or see what's coming up on "Horizonte", go to our website www.az.pbs.org and click on "Horizonte". That's our show for tonight and for the year. As always, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte". I'm José Cárdenas. Have a good evening.

Ruben Hernandez: Reporter, Phoenix Business Journal;

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