Political Considerations and Practical Ones
HOUSTON — On most subjects, it’s hard to find a politician in the country more conservative than Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, but when it comes to Arizona’s new immigration law, you find the gun-toting, Obama-bashing, regulation-slashing, state-rights-touting governor walking a fine line.
“I fully recognize and support a state’s right and obligation to protect its citizens,” Mr. Perry, a Republican, said in a statement, “but I have concerns with portions of the law passed in Arizona, and believe it would not be the right direction for Texas.”
One of those concerns, Mr. Perry went on, was that the local police and sheriffs would end up spending too much time corralling illegal immigrants and would neglect to catch criminals and keep the public safe. But he also blamed the federal government for not securing the border and repeated his stance that no immigration reform should be passed until the border is secured.
That is a common position among Republican officeholders here, including Senator John Cornyn. They all portray the Arizona bill as a result of the state’s frustration with the failure in Washington to seal the border.
But Mr. Perry’s real concern may be as much political as it is practical. Statewide officials in Texas, especially Republicans, have a hard time getting elected without Hispanic voters. Yet, Republicans still need to keep white conservatives, their base, happy.
Mr. Perry has taken steps to increase the number of state police officers and cameras along the border. But he also has come out against ending the basing of citizenship on being born on American soil, opposed the border fence and favors a guest-worker program. JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
Our legal immigration system must continue to welcome those who seek to embrace America’s blessings and abide by the legal and orderly system that is in place. The American people have every right to expect the federal government to secure our borders and prevent illegal immigration. It has become all too easy for some in Washington to ignore the desperation and urgency of those like the citizens of Arizona who are disproportionately wrestling with this problem as well as the violence, drug trafficking and lawlessness that spills over from across the border.
States certainly have the right to enact policies to protect their citizens, but Arizona’s policy shows the difficulty and limitations of states trying to act piecemeal to solve what is a serious federal problem. From what I have read in news reports, I do have concerns about this legislation. While I don’t believe Arizona’s policy was based on anything other than trying to get a handle on our broken borders, I think aspects of the law, especially that dealing with ‘reasonable suspicion,’ are going to put our law enforcement officers in an incredibly difficult position. It could also unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens. Throughout American history and throughout this administration we have seen that when government is given an inch it takes a mile.
I hope Congress and the Obama Administration will use the Arizona legislation not as an excuse to try and jam through amnesty legislation, but to finally act on border states’ requests for help with security and fix the things about our immigration system that can be fixed right now – securing the border, reforming the visa and entry process, and cracking down on employers who exploit illegal immigrants.
AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today issued the following statement regarding border security, the recent debate over immigration policy in Washington and what has been implemented in Arizona:
“Texas has a rich history with Mexico, our largest trading partner, and we share more than 1,200 miles of border, more than any other state. As the debate on immigration reform intensifies, the focus must remain on border security and the federal government’s failure to adequately protect our borders. Securing our border is a federal responsibility, but it is a Texas problem, and it must be addressed before comprehensive immigration reform is discussed.
“Recently, there has been much debate over immigration policy in Washington and what has been implemented in Arizona. I fully recognize and support a state’s right and obligation to protect its citizens, but I have concerns with portions of the law passed in Arizona and believe it would not be the right direction for Texas.
“For example, some aspects of the law turn law enforcement officers into immigration officials by requiring them to determine immigration status during any lawful contact with a suspected alien, taking them away from their existing law enforcement duties, which are critical to keeping citizens safe. Our focus must continue to be on the criminal elements involved with conducting criminal acts against Texans and their property. I will continue to work with the legislative leadership to develop strategies that are appropriate for Texas.
“Securing the border has to be a top priority, which is why I have a standing request with the federal government for 1,000 Title 32 National Guardsmen who can support civilian law enforcement efforts to enhance border security in Texas. I have also requested predator drones be based in and operate over the Texas-Mexico border to provide essential information about criminal activity to law enforcement on the ground.
“Until the federal government brings the necessary resources to bear, we will continue to commit state funding and resources for additional border security efforts in order to protect our communities and legitimate cross border trade and travel, while enforcing the laws already on the books.”