Journalists Roundtable Year-Ender

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José Cárdenas talks to journalists Frank Camacho of KTVK-TV and Richard Ruelas and Richard de Uriarte of The Arizona Republic about issues that made news in 2005.

Jose Cardenas:
Good evening. I'm Jose Cardenas. Welcome to a special edition of "Horizonte." tonight we'll talk to journalists about issues making news this year and also their predictions to 2006. From immigration to the governor's race next year, over the next half hour our panel of journalists will talk about these topics and more, coming up on "Horizonte." Our roundtable of journalists tonight are Richard Ruelas, columnist with the Arizona republic, Frank Camacho from KTVK "three" TV, and Rich de Uriarte, editorial writer also from the Arizona republic. Mike Sauceda gives us a rundown of what we saw in 2005.

Mike Sauceda:
A few new initiatives and some of the same old talk. Barbara Mandrell Rodriguez was superior court presiding judge, the first female and first Hispanic judge to hold that position in Arizona. There's the first father/daughter team in the state legislature. His daughter Rebecca Real as senator of the 23rd district. They are Arizona's first family duo in the state legislature. More recently governor Napolitano named Art Macias one of the youngest members of the governor's cabinet. New studies and research revealed much about Latinos in 2005. In may the Pugh Hispanic center also found the total number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. hit 10.3 million with Arizona 5th nationally in this group. In October a joint partnership between the Salt River project and Arizona state University's W.P. Carey School of Business released a comprehensive study focused on Latino owned businesses. They mirror mainstream businesses in many respects. A substantial percentage of business owners have college degrees. More than 65% of U.S. born and a majority are family owned businesses. A few weeks later the annual study was released reiterating the impact our Arizona Hispanic population has on the local economy. Hispanics are the fastest growing minority group in Arizona. Next, over the past decade purchasing power in Arizona rose from $8 billion to over $21 billion. Hispanics spend more than $5 billion shopping online annually in the U.S. of all new homebuyers in the next ten years 40% will be ethnic and immigrant. The final study was the rocky mountain poll revealing their continuing misconceptions about Latinos by Arizonans. The study found most speak English, many are not immigrants and the vast majority of immigrants are here legally. Arizona debated and resolved many issues. The fate of the Madison Square Garden gym made headlines. The coalition tried to preserve the venue. They argued it held significance to the Latino and African American community, however the phoenix city council decided in favor of demolition and in September the building was torn down. Another controversial topic in 2005 was governor Napolitano's approval of the requirement that no state or local taxpayer money be used to fund day labor centers. 2005 also witnessed the local issue that ended up making national headlines. Four Wilson High School honor students apprehended in New York during a class trip. The Wilson four are undocumented youths brought into the U.S. as small children. In the midst of the debate a bill stalled in the u.s. senate judiciary committee for several years was brought to the surface the dream act, designed to give children of undocumented immigrants a chance to earn citizen status. The single most debated subject in 2005 was immigration. Proposition 200 became reality when new voting laws took effect in 2005. First the requirement of proof of citizenship before voting became a requirement. Voters must give two forms of identification. They reported the reason many people voted for or against the proposition was that they believed proposition 200 sent a necessary message to elected officials that something should be done about illegal immigration. When asked what the proposition was all about, results showed many did not understand the initiative or found it vague but voted for it regardless. Several summits on immigration were held throughout 2005. Governor Napolitano hosted a July gathering of more than 150 criminal justice professionals in flagstaff. Discussions included immigration initiatives. Many issues were not as controversial as much as how it took place. The meeting was held behind closed doors. A month later governor Napolitano declared a state of emergency to help fight illegal immigration along the border. Funds went to help local law enforcement agencies in Yuma, Cochise, Santa Cruz and Pima counties. Then possible border solutions were proposed in 2005. One idea, a fence along the border, was suggested by representative Russell Pierce. Maricopa county Andrew Thomas issued an opinion allowing illegal immigrants using smugglers to get into the country to be arrested and charged. Three Arizona lawmakers united to sponsor a bill. Senator John McCain, congressman Jim Colby and Jim Flake sponsored the act which would create a work visa to allow foreign workers to come into the country if they have a job waiting for them. They would have to pay a $500 fee. It would initially be limited to 400,000 annually. Arizona senator Jon Kyl sponsored another bill. It does not have a path to permanent residency but would beef up border patrol with 10,000 new agents and $2 billion for high-tech surveillance. Let's not forget the multiple visits from George Bush, making it clear this debate has only begun.

Jose Cardenas:
The video described immigration as the single most debated subject of the year. Do you agree?

Richard Ruelas:
Absolutely. It's going to be the most debated topic until some reform gets done and even after that. It permeates everything in Arizona, even issues that I think we'll see in 2006. Issues that we don't think now are associated with the topic. It is permeating everything in Arizona politics.

Jose Cardenas:
Came up in a whole bunch of different ways, frank. What were the more significant ones? We touched on some in the video package. The state of emergency, obviously, the continued debates over prop 200. What struck you the most?

Frank Camacho:
I think the birth of the minutemen and the mindset that goes into the minutemen. That to me is quite frightening, the fact that so many people feel they have no other alternative but to arm themselves and go down on the border and police the border. That to me is just -- it really speaks to the lack of any kind of action on the federal level, which is so frustrating not just to the minutemen supporters but also to anyone who wants to see a reasonable and effective answer to the immigration question. I mean, that's the extremes that we're getting to. Frankly, I don't see any stop to that. I think it's just going to keep building through 2006.

Jose Cardenas:
The governor took a number of steps with respect to immigration. Is it smart politics on her part or is it as the conservatives claim they pushed her to these positions and she's adopting their points of view now?

Richard de Uriarte:
I think that actually she's trying to outflank them a little bit. Anything that governor does, a governor who acts with a single voice, is going to get much more attention, and so her declaration of an emergency, while it didn't release enormous amount of funds or change the laws or do anything, it's a state of emergency, and it got national attention that two democrat governors were doing it. And in fact one, New Mexico governor bill Richardson, is Latino himself. In fact, there were stories immediately after, are the two democratic governors outflanking republicans on immigration issues? So as Richard and Frank were saying, this over shadows every other issue. I was disappointed at the tone of -- it's been much more shrill.

Jose Cardenas:
Were you surprised, though?

Richard de Uriarte:
No, no, I guess not. I'm disappointed, never surprised. As a student of history, these years really remind me of the turn of the century in 1890, 1910. You had a changing economy, lots of immigrants, lots of anti-German, anti-Italian, anti-Russian feelings. It's very, very similar.

Jose Cardenas:
In more recent history, the fight over proposition 187 in California, which evoked some of the same kinds of stereotypes, invading hoards which some politicians made reference to. The thinking there was that set back the Republican Party's efforts to recruit Hispanics significantly.

Richard de Uriarte:
I think Arizona republicans are worried about that. Especially officialdom, worry that it's not the message that George Bush used to get arguably upwards to 40% of the popular Latino vote in 2004. Politics is numbers. Here in Arizona, if Latinos vote, there are like 21 to 35% of the populations depending on the county, if they vote in numbers that are 5 and 6% of the general election they don't matter. If they are at 7 to 10 to 12, now at 10 and 12, that -- those are numbers that in close elections mean a lot. I think that that's what republicans are worried about because given the DATOS report an emerging population, you're going to have these people show up.

Richard Ruelas:
It's almost too bad we have to talk in terms of numbers because it's not cut and dried. The frustration that people have started the minutemen feel, there's some real feelings there. It is that the government has not fixed this system. Maybe it is because they are afraid of looking bad to Latino voters, mainly I think it's because they don't want to hurt business that depend on these workers, but no one has really looked at until recently when we have flake, McCain and Colby trying to find a real solution.

Jose Cardenas:
You'll recall we did one show on the results of the think easy analysis of the prop 200 voters and their mind sets going in. What they found was somewhat different than most controversial ballot initiatives is that people had their minds made up. Even people who were convinced this would have no practical impact were in favor of it not because they were racist but because they wanted to send a message.

Richard Ruelas:
Let's do something. That's why we have it. We have done something.

Frank Camacho:
I think one of the interesting things also next year will be the waning popularity of president bush. He's always pulling out 9/11. That's why we need security measures. Stringent security measures. Well, that was one of the arguments used by the minutemen an others to build fences and to make sure that our borders are secure. The president's ratings are beginning to slide. People are beginning to look at his arguments and they are not buying the 9/11 any more. They are tired of hearing of it. It's going to be interesting to see what happens next year in terms of politics as far as the republicans are concerned because they have a president whose ratings are sliding. His coat tails are shortening a great deal.

Jose Cardenas:
That also probably means it will be much more difficult to have any meaningful immigration reform because of conservative republicans feeling more comfortable challenging him on things including the guest worker program.

Richard Ruelas:
They won in congress by not having a bill sail through the house that didn't have a guest worker provision attached. I hope that there's some silent, reasonable majority out there that will say, we really need to take a hand on the immigration question. We're not interested in setting up an army on the border.

Jose Cardenas:
Russell Pierce has suggested something.

Richard Ruelas:
As an idea it will have lots of traction. Practicality, there's no way you can do it. It's going to be a lot of money that they will be talking about, but it's a fun thing to talk about. Until he gets damaged by talking that way, we'll see more of that rhetoric.

Richard de Uriarte:
The problem is every plan has about 30% of the people for it and 30% of the lawmakers for it, and right now, it's very difficult for the comprehensive strategy, for workplace enforcement, which is what you need. They are here for jobs. You need work force enforcement, but without -- if you only have work force enforcement we have no workers and businesses don't have anybody to work, the economy will tank. This is a state that has 10 to 11% of the people are supposedly undocumented in jobs right now. When you talk about construction, tourism, landscaping, home construction, these are enormous Arizona industries that rely on these workers. So that's a nonstarter. A fence would be -- a fence would be a component for about the hard right conservative, which who can object to a fence? You know? We have fences with neighbors. Well, if it costs a billion, who is going to build it?

Frank Camacho:
Exactly. I think, though, it might take the business community, some as you mentioned before earlier, Richard, where the business community will have to come out and take a really courageous stand on immigration reform. That may finally push the issue beyond the politics of fear to the politics of reasonableness.

Richard Ruelas:
Until now business has been content to sit on the sidelines. Let illegal immigrants be demonized. Let the issue be focused on the border. They are content with that. Meanwhile, let's hire them through the back door and build our houses and work in the restaurants and tend our gardens. There's going to be something maybe similar to what we saw with hurricane Katrina, peel back some veils and the public saw some reality maybe they were shielded from before. Maybe this same thing might happen with immigration if the business people step forward and say, we need these people.

Frank Camacho:
That's going to take a lot of courage for the business community to do that.

Jose Cardenas:
Many political observers thought the court attorney would run on an anti-illegal immigration platform, and apparently it wasn't just an election year ploy because he has gotten right in the thick of it. What are your thoughts?

Frank Camacho:
I find it quite scary. I'm not sure exactly how far he's going to go. I mentored a panel discussion a month or so ago. It was quite scary because of the mood of the crowd. There was very little of what you would say is reasonable conversation on this issue. There was more of the attack. Again, I hate to sound redundant, but it keeps coming back to the politics of fear. That's what it seems like Mr. Thomas and his regime is catering to.

Richard de Uriarte:
Yet the courts were an avenue of some successes in the past year. When we talk about the Wilson four, having their case dropped, sends a message that maybe it was just one case, but that the courts are not going to just say let's go after some people who look like Mexicans and forget civil rights and go after them. That was an act of courage by judge Richardson, the immigration attorney. I think you have instances around -- I think the high profile of judge Barbara Rodriguez Mandrell --

Jose Cardenas:
Speaking of the courts and fear, you have the county attorney going after a program she was very proud of. You saw her on the video. One of the things we talked about was this Spanish language post conviction dui probation court, which has generated some impressive results, lower recidivism rates. The county attorney announced he's going after that program because he thinks it's unconstitutional.

Richard de Uriarte:
I think Andrew Thomas is a smart guy but a very, very politically ambitious person. These are the stances that he can carve out his name and a future and some support.

Jose Cardenas:
Does it also suggest that the fear that he may be playing off of is not just fear of illegal immigration and its impacts but the cultural wars that professor Huntington at Harvard and the others have engaged in, and it's the language, it's the food, it's --

Richard de Uriarte: I think that clearly -- you see that in neighborhoods. Let's get this down to neighborhoods. Even in majority Latino neighborhoods that we all know in central phoenix, mesa, Tempe, Glendale, when the immigrants come in and had their cars in the front or cook in the front or make attachments to their house, you know, lots of animals, this creates friction in the neighborhoods. We had a case of that at southern and south, where a few migrant men whistled at a couple girls and a grandmother and two young nephews went over and beat them and stabbed them. So you have this tension everywhere. It is a clash of culture. It's a clash of what happened to our country?

Richard Ruelas:
That's a very real thing. I think people who have lived in Maryville or west Phoenix have seen their neighborhood change from under them. I think there's some fear. Andrew Thomas is definitely going after that fear. I hope, maybe this is optimism that all of this posturing is just pure politics and that he's not really meaning to make this happen. The summit that Mr. Camacho took part in, I reported a column on that. What they were interested in is obviously not an immigration solution. They were interested in getting on fox news. I hope he's posturing himself to move beyond Maricopa county.

Frank Camacho:
But yet what is his decision? What does that tell you?

Jose Cardenas:
You're talking about the ex marine -- the rifle at the rest stop.

Frank Camacho:
He doesn't prosecute? What does that tell you?

Richard Ruelas:
That actually had -- I believe that was a political decision too, but that may have had real ramifications because that essentially sent a signal, if you find yourself in this similar situation you might try the same thing. The county attorney has your back.

Frank Camacho:
Exactly.

Jose Cardenas:
Let's move on to a slightly different subject. That's leadership. We've talked a little bit about it at the statewide level. What about within the Hispanic community? You saw we profiled Pete Rios, Rebecca Rios, Pete, from a district that's soon to go republican, so we may not see him too much longer there. Richard, you follow this pretty closely. What were the big stories in 2005?

Richard de Uriarte:
I think the story we missed is because we focused so much on what's happening today, journalists are comfortable with today. It's the future we're hard pressed on, I think, for example, you see a great deal of people who are immigrants who have worked hard and are now getting into the economy, doing well, owning their own businesses. The second generation is breaking into high school and college, they are working hard. The individuals that you'll see, we asked the businesses get a higher profile, but associations, trade associations that represent those businesses are high profile, and people like Bettina Nava helped put together John McCain's office with Valley Iinterfaith, with the state chamber of commerce. The Valley Interfaith and state chamber of commerce don't always see eye to eye on social policy, but they do see something on immigration reform where they can ward off some of the most anti-immigrant programs.

Jose Cardenas:
Bettina is up and coming.

Richard de Uriarte:
Hieme Molera was state department of education -- lost to tom horn in a bitter campaign. Had ethnic overtones the way tom horn ran it. Tom horn himself is going after Roosevelt school district. You're seeing people who have nothing to do with government, in consulting firms, Arizona Latino research enterprise -- sal rivera, a number of people who are there on the tip.

Jose Cardenas:
We have about two minutes left. I want to make sure each of you have enough time to give your thoughts on 2006, what we can expect. I'll start with Richard.

Richard Ruelas:
Maybe this might be optimistic. I would hope this is the year, I think I said this last year, that we get real meaningful immigration reform that includes a guest worker program and the dream act. I think we'll see some leaders, more kids like the Wilson four, who are showing that as a first generation immigrant, they can go through high school, go through college, and now what? I think that should be an easy problem to solve. What do we do with all these college educated, highly motivated students? I hope we can go from there.

Jose Cardenas:
Frank.

Frank Camacho:
Being rather optimistic, although a lot of stuff that's going on is rather pessimistic, but I think this next year will be a good year not only because it's an election year, but I think that we're going to get to a point in our society today where we have to get -- we have to sit down and we have to talk. I think that for Latinos I think we have a lot of folks and a lot of organizations that are now because they are beginning to feel the heat and because they are feeling better about themselves, are going to start coming out and you'll see a louder voice and a more effective voice for the Latino community.

Jose Cardenas:
Richard, you have 45 seconds. Your thoughts?

Richard de Uriarte:
I'm pretty much a pessimist. [laughter] we're not going to have immigration reform. We're going to have a series of bills that satisfy the political ambitions of three or four factions. The dream act, we're not going to do anything that would be deemed to encourage more immigration, so we're not going to be nice to Mexicans or anybody. We're just not going to do it. It's going to be very interesting how Arizona treats the English language learners at the legislature. We'll see a signal right there. I think that, however, in the big overall grasp, Latinos will be a growing force in Arizona.

>> We have to wrap it up there. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us. Look forward to seeing you in 2006. As always to see a transcript of tonight's show or find out more information, go to our website. Click on "Horizonte." that's our show for tonight and for the year. Thank you for joining us. I'm José Cardenas. For all of us here we want to wish you and your family a safe holiday season. See you next year. Goodnight.

Richard Ruelas: Arizona Republic;

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