Time to Tackle Immigration Reform
Arizona SB 1070, the state's effort at immigration reform, has drawn national attention since it was signed by Governor Brewer in late April. The bill has been the subject of dozens of headline articles and editorials in major papers throughout the country and was even a major discussion item during Mexican President Filipe Calderon's official White House visit last week. Controversy has centered on a provision in the bill which obligates law enforcement and other public officials, during a lawful contact, to determine the immigration status when there is reasonable suspicion that the person is an illegal alien.
It is rare for one piece of state legislation to capture so much focus nationwide, but there are few issues as divisive in America today as immigration. You've probably read the sensational headlines, now get the perspective from one of your chamber colleagues. My interview with Tucson Chamber president Jack Camper is below:
ACCE: What impact has the passage of Arizona SB 1070 had already on your state and community?
Jack Camper: As you can tell from daily headlines and clips on the nightly news, this bill has certainly generated a lot of emotional turmoil, both in Tucson and across the country. Its passage was a drastic step to be sure, but one our state representatives and senators apparently felt was critical for the overall safety and well being of our citizenry.
The situation has been exacerbated by Congressman Raul Grijalva making the irresponsible call for businesses to boycott Arizona in response to the passage of SB 1070. Here in Arizona, the housing market is still reeling, the unemployment rate for the state is at nearly 10%, and the overall effects of the recession are continuing to devastate businesses and the economy in general. The Congressman's proposed boycott did not appear to address the problems that brought about SB1070 in the first place and presented no reasonable solution to America's immigration issue.
ACCE: What is the Tucson Chamber's position on this bill and the immigration issue more broadly.
Camper: We believe that protecting our national borders is a federal—not state—responsibility. Period. But failure to act at a national level created an untenable situation at the state level that required action.
The Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has a better solution. Three years ago, we created an Immigration Reform Policy which was distributed to every member of Congress in Washington, D.C. It is a well reasoned and workable plan that considers economic impacts, practical logistics, as well as previous failed attempts. Although Congress chose to put our plan on the back burner, it may well be time now for a closer look at our proposal. This proposed policy could create the foundation for a viable immigration reform plan.
ACCE: Do you expect similar kinds of legislation to spread to other states?
Camper: It is already spreading. Legislators in several states are already on the record as wanting to pass similar legislation in their states. This is definitely a contagious issue, and Arizona is not the first state to tackle the immigration issue on its own. Onerous immigration legislation passed in 2008 is currently under judicial review in Oklahoma after it was challenged by the Oklahoma City Chamber, the Tulsa Chamber and the State Chamber of Oklahoma. We need to collectively push for meaningful federal level immigration reform now!
ACCE: What advice would you give to your peers across the country with respect to immigration reform.
Camper: Chambers across the country need to contact their members of Congress, both House and Senate, and urge them to address this issue NOW. Allowing them to dodge this issue due to an election year begs the question "Should incumbents be allowed to continue to serve - be reelected - without addressing comprehensive immigration reform?"
A final word: If you believe that this issue will not affect your community, guess again. USA Today recently cited that terrorists are using our porous Arizona-Mexico border to enter our country and those terrorists fully intend to disrupt commerce across America. Allowing any member of Congress to hide from this important national security crisis during this election cycle should not be tolerated.
Please contact your Congressmen and Senators and urge them to adopt a comprehensive immigration plan immediately. This could be a watershed issue reinforcing the relevance and influence of Chambers across our nation as we act as catalysts to resolve one of the most important issues facing our communities and our Nation. Take action!!
If you are interested in learning more or getting involved in the immigration reform effort, here are some resources and links to help.
- Tucson Metropolitan Chamber - Immigration Reform Policy Statement
- Tucson Metropolitan Chamber - Letter to Congress
- Greater Houston Partnership - US Senate Testimony on Immigration Policy
- Americans for Immigration Reform - spearheaded by The Greater Houston Partnership
- Oklahoma Immigration Law Put On Hold - from the Policy Clearinghouse blog, 06/2008
- Immigration Proposals are Back in States - from the Policy Clearinghouse blog, 02/2009