Opponents of the controversial immigration bill signed by Gov. Jan Brewer last week have several suggestions on how the state should have handled the immigration issue.
Challengers urge state leaders to fight harder to push the federal government to improve immigration legislation. They want a reform of the work Visa process. And they want a law enforcement that isn’t detracted from fighting crime.
Alberto Olivas, public policy committee chairman for the Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens, said he wants to see immigration legislation that gives a reasonable and sustainable way to secure the border in concert with the federal government.
“We don’t want open borders, despite what some might say,” said Olivas, a Mesa resident.
He believes the law detracts law enforcement officers from their ability to protect citizens and address crime.
“What we’re really afraid of is skyrocketing rates of victimization of immigrants, both documented and undocumented,” Olivas said. “We believe people will be less likely to give testimony to crimes because now victims and witnesses are not protected from being asked their legal status. There’s no incentive for them to help.”
Olivas also wants to see reform of the work Visa process.
The state should provide the federal government with accurate numbers of the work force at different levels, from those working in the fields to those working in kitchens.
“We’re forcing our key industries to hire people under the table,” Olivas said. “If we had a Visa process without having to resort to illegal hiring practices, our economy can only benefit. That would really have a key impact and where the state can show some leadership.”
States should regulate the unregulated economy, said Ana Avendano, the president’s assistant with the AFL-CIO, American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations.
“You have to take away the economic incentive that’s bringing illegal immigrants here for work,” said Avendano, talking by phone from Washington, D.C.
Many agree it has to be fixed on a national level.
“Forget the legal level,” Avendano said. “It will end up with a tapestry of different policies, and we need a consistent federal policy.”
David Leopold, the president elect of the executive committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association based out of Washington, D.C., agrees.
“When you have state law enforcement officers enforcing immigration laws, it can lead to all kinds of problems,” said Leopold, of Cleveland. “Writing laws that in effect legalize racial profiling and make Arizona into a show-me-your-paper state doesn’t solve the problem. I can’t think about one thing about SB 1070 that solves the problem.”
The country has a broken immigration system that needs to be fixed, he said.
“Brewer should have vetoed the bill and then called on Congress to pass a workable, functional, safe and orderly immigration system that meets the needs of American families and businesses to keep us competitive under the 21st century. If she had done that she would have been hailed as a hero across the country, not as another cynical politician who is grandstanding for votes.”
Father Charles Goraieb, who helps lead three Spanish Sunday masses at Queen of Peace Catholic Church, said there needs to be a way of legalizing immigrants who have a track record of living here peacefully.
“Many of them have bought property and their children have been born here,” said Goraieb, whose church serves about 2,000 Hispanic families. He added that 75 percent of Hispanic immigrants are Catholic.
“We’ve created a class of criminals by keeping them on the margin,” he said. “The majority of the people who come here come because they are economic refugees… We create a culture of subterfuge where they have to lie about their names, their social security, just to live day by day.
“What is this doing to our culture when we are treating these people to a complete lack of dignity?” Goraieb said.