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The Obama/Brewer Meeting: It's Not Just About What AZ Has Done; It's About What Washington Hasn’

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Three Key Points for President Obama as he Prepares for the Thursday Meeting

Washington, DC – The news of President Obama’s upcoming meeting on Thursday with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ) offers an opportunity for President Obama to take back control of the immigration debate.  Below are three important points for President Obama to remember as he prepares for the meeting:

  1. The public wants Washington to step up on immigration reform:  President Obama needs to understand the sentiments underlying the Arizona law and its popularity.  The American people are clamoring for action on immigration reform and want the issue addressed at the national level.  In absence of federal action on comprehensive reform, however, they will support Arizona-like laws to the detriment of public safety and civil rights.  In new bipartisan polling, Lake Research Partners and Public Opinion Strategies found that three out of five voters supported the Arizona law.  However, four out of five of the same voters who support the Arizona law also support comprehensive immigration reform with a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants; only one out of five of these voters support deportation as the preferred policy option when asked what to do about the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. 

  2. “No More Arizonas”:  President Obama needs to exert leadership to staunch the spread of other state laws modeled after Arizona’s.  The popularity of Arizona’s law should not obscure the President or anyone else from recognizing the damages the Arizona law will inflict on the state and its residents – undocumented and citizens alike.  Conservative columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. summed up the consequences well today, writing, “Here are the facts: (1) Arizona lawmakers have boxed police officers in with a law that requires them — under threat of litigation — to check the citizenship of anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally once they make contact due to an alleged infraction; (2) the list of “infractions” is broad enough to include everything from trespassing to vagrancy to soliciting work to attending a party where the music is too loud; and (3) police officers are going to do everything they can to fulfill their obligations under the law.”  The President and Members of Congress from both parties must recognize that a state-by-state patchwork of Arizona-like laws promises to worsen the existing problems of our broken immigration system.  We need to stop the spread of Arizona and instead enact a national solution in the form of comprehensive immigration reform.

  3. Where are the GOP champions?:  President Obama needs to secure a commitment from Governor Brewer to lobby her home-state Senators to be champions of reform.  While the President needs to exert more muscle in pursuing comprehensive immigration reform, he’s right in pointing out that Republicans aren’t exactly making a good faith effort to work to solve the immigration problem.  Past comprehensive reform champions John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) are content to substitute tough talk about border security for the broader real solutions offered by comprehensive reform – border enforcement is a necessary but insufficient part of getting immigration reform right.  It does nothing to stop the jobs magnet or bring the 11 million unauthorized immigrants into the system legally.  And it does nothing to reform our legal immigration system so that it can respond flexibly to future labor market needs.  Governor Brewer highlights federal inaction as the reason for her signing of the Arizona law – she should instead point her finger at her home-state Senators McCain and Kyl, who appear motivated more by primary politics than a real desire to solve the problem.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “The meeting between President Obama and Governor Brewer is not only about what Arizona has done; it is about what Washington hasn’t done.  The Arizona law is a travesty and will spread to other states unless Washington steps up and addresses the public’s desperate desire to fix the nation’s dysfunctional immigration system once and for all.  The same folks who support the harsh Arizona law support even more strongly a humane, comprehensive immigration reform level at the Federal level.  It’s now a question of who frames the debate and who leans into it with leadership.  If President Obama doesn’t, people like Governor Brewer will.”

 America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform