In the category of cutting off nose to spite face, one could argue Arizona is a master surgeon.

Arizona immigration stand keeps heat on issue

Tom Karst
National Editor

Arizona has crafted an immigration enforcement law that is now subject to a challenge by federal officials who claim the law steps across the line and attempts to do the federal government’s job.

That’s the point, isn’t it?

Arizona was so frustrated with the lack of a coherent national immigration policy that the state went to the trouble and expense of constructing a law that aims to calm the waters at least within its own state.

Where does this pent-up frustration come from?

Is it a general angst of knowing that immigrants are entering the country in a constant flow, much like the now-familiar webcam window to the insidious BP Gulf of Mexico oil leak?

Do Arizonans resent the illegal immigrants building their homes, harvesting their crops and working on their landscaping crews?

In this regard, consider the statements by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer:

“As a direct result of failed and inconsistent federal enforcement, Arizona is under attack from violent Mexican drug and immigrant smuggling cartels,” she said.

“Now, Arizona is under attack in federal court from President Obama and his Department of Justice.”

A flash point for the issue in Arizona was the killing earlier this year of southern Arizona rancher Robert Krentz, who authorities suspect was murdered by a smuggler of illegal immigrants.

The federal government, in turn, says the Arizona immigration law will place significant burdens on federal agencies, diverting their resources away from high-priority targets, such as terrorism, drug smuggling, and gang activity and others with criminal records.

Basically, the federal government said it doesn’t have the resources to account for all illegal immigrants — only the really bad ones.

Arizona counters that the feds have shown no impulse to sue local governments that have adopted a patchwork of sanctuary policies that directly violate federal law.

Those on either side of the debate cite statistics.

For example, the Federation for American Immigration Reform estimates that illegal immigration costs federal and local taxpayers $113 billion a year, of which Arizona suffers an annual hit of $2.6 billion.

The report states undocumented workers pay about $13 billion a year in taxes, resulting in a net cost to taxpayers of about $100 billion.

Yet a study earlier this year by the Center for American Progress estimated that deporting the entire illegal immigration population and securing the borders would cost $285 billion over five years.

Pick your poison, as it were.

The backlash against the state is severe and only likely to grow. Besides the expense of defending the law against a challenge by the federal government, the state is subject to boycott threats by assorted other groups who vow to avoid the state for events.

Of course, I would be shocked if produce associations reacted that way. Arizonans of all political stripes won’t appreciate being taken to task on this issue, and won’t soon forget the slight.

There is no sure indication how the law will change labor availability for agricultural employers.

The federal government’s lawsuit and assorted boycotts may only harden the resolve of Arizona to circle the wagons and defend its law.

“Arizona will ultimately prevail against the lawsuits — including this latest assault by the Obama aministration,” Brewer said in a statement July 6.

If there is one thing that can be gained for all interested parties by the controversial Arizona immigration law — granted, this is a big if — it is that it may bring Congress one step closer to enacting comprehensive immigration reform.

The three essential tenets of that legislation will be to secure the border, provide an adequate guest worker provision for agriculture and account for the illegal immigrants living in the U.S.

E-mail tkarst@thepacker.com

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