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home : opinions : opinions July 23, 2016

12/11/2012 1:07:00 PM
My Turn: Arizona must show bold leadership in immigration reform
Sheila Polk

I am a native Arizonan who loves Mexico. I lived there during my sophomore year of high school as a foreign exchange student. I also believe in the rule of law. In November, I volunteered for one week in Mexico City to help train Mexican prosecutors in oral advocacy as that country transitions to a criminal justice system that resembles the due process we enjoy in this country.

I support border security but have lamented policies that punish work ethic, ignore the wealth of culture, diversity and trade opportunities our neighbors to the south bring to our state, and fail to heed the humanity in all of us to help others.

Our broken immigration system calls for comprehensive reform built on principles of consensus. It is time for Arizona to move from accusations to action. It is time for Arizona to lead with solutions and show the federal government how leadership through consensus-driven decisions can work.

That is why I wholeheartedly embrace the S.A.N.E. Solution to Federal Immigration, developed by a coalition named The Real Arizona. The consensus platform moves beyond an enforcement-only approach. Current policy that focuses only on border security is simply ineffective, and ignores the estimate that approximately half of those illegally in this country entered lawfully and overstayed visas.

Arizona will benefit from advancing this set of guiding principles.

First, it calls for gaining operational control of our borders as achieved by the Yuma, San Diego and El Centro sectors.

Step two is to account for the approximately eleven million who are in the United States without lawful authority. The task to engage in a massive deportation effort is not operationally feasible and disregards families of combined legal and unlawful status. The platform will require them to register, pay a fee, apply for temporary legal residency with authorization to work, undergo background checks, and deport those with felony convictions.

At the end of a five-year period, those who have completed all the administrative steps and are eligible for permanent legal residency may so petition. Provisions for those present without lawful authority who were brought to this country as children can be implemented within the context of this framework. The S.A.N.E. coalition did not reach a consensus on the question of citizenship, recognizing this is a difficult question for the federal government to address.

This is also an opportunity to collect an objective set of data to identify true labor needs for the U.S. labor market, including high-tech, skilled, day labor and seasonal workers. This data should form the basis for bureaucratic reforms to our immigration system.

Next, the platform calls for the streamlining of the federal bureaucratic process for legally entering the United States. We can grow our economy by establishing a market-based immigration process that supports a range of work force needs, from seasonal to highly skilled workers, matching labor needs with those who want to work, and reduces wait time for visas.

Finally, the S.A.N.E. Solution seeks to engage all levels of government to create a secure system for employers nationwide to verify the legal work eligibility of employees. Immigration reform needs ongoing cooperation among local, state, federal officials and businesses to verify legal work-eligibility and enforce violations. In taking steps to reform our current system, a continued commitment to maintaining a secure environment for citizens and those here legally is imperative.

It is clear that the existing immigration system has not worked and will never work. It is time for a S.A.N.E. approach. I applaud the members of the coalition who have worked for two years to build a consensus approach to immigration that secures our border, strengthens our economy, and expands opportunities to increase trade and tourism.

The S.A.N.E. guiding principles demonstrate bold Arizona leadership and show Congress how to overcome the impasse on immigration reform. More information on the platform can be found at www.therealarizona.org.

Sheila Polk is the Yavapai County Attorney.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, December 17, 2012
Article comment by: John A. Bond

Nux man says:

"There are no less than 50 illegal aliens working there today, they even have illegal's who can't read a lick driving down the highway hauling overloaded trailers who count exits to figure out where to go."


And you reported this violation of law by the employer to INS, right?

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Article comment by: M J

I like it. And I don't care if they pay a fee or not.
However, the Yuma, San Diego and El Centro sectors are not secure by any stretch of the imagination.

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Article comment by: Peter, Yavapai County

Polk for Governor!

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Article comment by: Nux Man

Good points all. The first point of securing the border is where it falls flat however. The feds will not do it, although they are the only one's who can, and they know it. The rulers make the rules and therefor do not have to follow them..........
Employer responsibility is another false premise they won't do it either. In the airport industrial park in Prescott there is a company called European Techniques, they make cabinets & counter tops for govt. contracts, (schools, libraries, police stations). There are no less than 50 illegal aliens working there today, they even have illegal's who can't read a lick driving down the highway hauling overloaded trailers who count exits to figure out where to go. The joke is that the owner has a trap door under his desk that connects directly to mexico so he can replenish his stock when one or more is caught up in deportation. His wife is the daughter of a retired Az. superior court judge, and the legal owner of this company - and thats why the multitude of reports to the feds have gone nowhere.
Have a nice day Tom, you racist slaver of the unfortunate. (is that ok to say?).

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Article comment by: Lee Cali

I've been angry with Sheila Polk in the past for her rigorous interference with drug policy,. However when it comes to the problems about immigration, she is right on. Congratulations to her fierce determination to help take this state (and perhaps,country) out of the mess we're in on this issue.

Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Article comment by: Ryan Jensen

Well done Ms Polk!

It's a pity that accusations of RINO are sure to follow from the Mexican-haters that frequently darken these pages.

I applaud your effort but I can also see why you waited until after your (unchallenged) re-election to make your support of this plan public.

Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Article comment by: Leo ZUERCHER

Good argument, including the reform of the whole immigration system. My addition: To prevent abuse and to accommodate prospective immigrants from other regions who have waited at length for permission to immigrate.

Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Article comment by: Phil Falbo

Ms. Polk, may I suggest you work closely with Gov. Brewer and, as you do here, present a S.A.N.E. plan from which to draft specific, workable immigration policies.

I am sure that once you do this in a logical way, a reasonable Gov. Brewer and our rational Arizona Congress will immediately pass tax measures to finance the plans and secure the Border.

It will be Jan Brewer's chance to put our money where her usually loud mouth is and show that Arizona can do more than wag hypocritical fingers in presidents faces.

Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Article comment by: Slater Slater

I wish the USA could come up with programs to get our citizens back to work,then we could
look elsewhere.

Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Article comment by: Hallie stands amazed!

Seriously...I think I heard angels singing in the background while reading this article! A well- spoken, clearly laid out plan that is humane and just. The US benefits if taxes will be taken from approved employment vs. the cash under the table deals that are currently in place. As far as taking anyone else's jobs, many of the menial jobs that illegals are doing don't appeal to the masses. BRAVO, Ms. Polk!

Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Article comment by: John A. Bond

Sheila Polk says:

"Finally, the S.A.N.E. Solution seeks to engage all levels of government to create a secure system for employers nationwide to verify the legal work eligibility of employees. "


Based upon her statement, one gets the impression that "employers" cannot determine the status of potential workers and the onus must be places somewhere else to establish who is and who is not here legally.

I call this nonsense. I have enough personal awareness of this issue to be fully aware that employers are fully aware when they hire "illegal immigrants" to work for them.

To make the case that it is just too complicated for employers to determine whether or not their potential employees are here legally or not is disingenuous.

Employers not only know when the hire an illegal immigrant as an employee, they knowingly do so to exploit such workers to maximize their bottom line.

All an employer has to do is obtain proper identification and then verify whether that identification is valid. It is far too easy for employers to pretend they do not know when they hire illegal immigrants.

Impose substantial fines and imprisonment, with confiscation of the business in egregious cases and employers will immediately stop hiring illegal immigrants.

Put the onus were it belongs, on the employers who entice people to come here for work only to be exploited by those self-same employers.

Do that and the "problem" will resolve itself.

Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Article comment by: The Goatherder

This is a brave stand Ms. Polk, I agree with it and applaud you. You're going to get a whole bunch of negative feedback though. Get ready for the "Mexicans took my job" crowd.

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