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November 24, 2009

Host: Ted Simons

Citizenship Applications

  |   Video
  • The number of people applying for citizenship was up in 2009 as compared to 2008. But the numbers aren’t anywhere near where they were in 2007. Immigration attorney Nic Suriel discusses the numbers.
  • Nic Suriel - Immigration Attorney
Category: Immigration

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The number of people applying for citizenship was up in fiscal year 2009 as compared to 2008 but the numbers are down big time from those who applied in 2007. Here to talk about this is Nic Suriel, Immigration Attorney. Thank you for being here on "Horizon."

Nic Suriel: Thank you.

Ted Simons: A number of illegal immigrants applying for citizenship up. Surprised by that at all?

Nic Suriel: No. You think about it immigrants always had a positive outlook, I think. That's the hallmark, I think, of coming to this country and looking at opportunity and looking at, you know, becoming part of the American way and so it doesn't surprise me.

Ted Simons: Part of the American way means voting in American elections. I guess the '08 election made a huge difference, didn't it?

Nic Suriel: Huge difference in July of last year, 7,000 interviews in the month of July, record number for Phoenix, and I was there. I was there when there was just a busload. There were 40-some-odd examiners doing interviews. It was an exciting time. At Cardinal Stadium they had a citizenship swearing in. It was 3,000 people. Terry Goddard spoke there.

Ted Simons: the numbers from 2007 down considerably temperature that the economy? The crackdown? What's doing on here?

Nic Suriel: A huge price increase went into effect august 1, '07. The applicants that submitted the applications in '07 and were accepted in '08, the President Obama galvanized immigrants. You'll see people want be to be part of that in elections.

Ted Simons: We mentioned the fee increase. There's another one coming, correct?

Nic Suriel: In fact, I recently met with the district director here. We were talking about how USCIS needs to pay for its way. So they're forecasting another big price increase sometime next year. It's not official yet. We're kind of seeing that coming.

Ted Simons: That'll suggest another surge in applicants before the increase takes effect?

Nic Suriel: I think so. I think the midterm elections will motivate people. Immigration forum, there's still people where hopes and dreams are riding on that happening. There'll be congressional districts that immigrants will want to be a part of.

Ted Simons: Talk to us about the process. What does an immigrant have to do in terms of cost in terms of time in terms of tests? What goes on?

Nic Suriel: It's a lot. I'm a naturalized U.S. citizen myself. I've been through the process. This is just a check list I use. This is the checklist. You have to go to an interview and get your fingerprints taken and get passport pictures. If you've ever been cited, even a plain traffic citation, you have to disclose that. You have to get certified copies of any police report that was filed. You're going to have to produce five-year tax returns. It's quite a bit and really the job of an immigration lawyer is to just kind of apprize people of the process. How long it'll take. What will happen. A lot of people have a lot of fear. My two interviews this past week, they both failed to pass the U.S. history and civics portion of the exam.

Ted Simons: You said a lot of people have fear. Is that the biggest fear they have? Taking the test? What the biggest concern you hear?

Nic Suriel: Um, a lot of things. You know, there are people that come to this country, you know, having gone through phenomenal hardship in their home countries and so it's very exciting to them to finally become a U.S. citizen. They really are surprised. They'll let me become a citizen? Yes. You. And so, um, there's a lot of nervousness. They don't know whether something they did or failed to do could impact them. It's just the not knowing of what exactly it all entails.

Ted Simons: Back to the numbers. Studies showing that the economy hits immigrants harder than native-born. Do you agree with that?

Nic Suriel: I do. Because immigrants are more entrepreneurial. Study after study shows that people that are not native born are more apt to open a store, you know, be part of creating jobs. I certainly can attest to that. My father, that was his motivation when he came here. He came and opened up a store in New York City and hired 20 people. That was part of the process. And that's -- I think that's still part of the immigrant experience.

Ted Simons: It's part of the immigrant experience to be opening up and be entrepreneurial. Be what about those that come here just to get a job, escape and find something better? You think they get hit hard as well?

Nic Suriel: I think so because you're looking at people whose English proficiencies may not be all that good and so they -- they're also a little bit, um, um, gun shy about what they know or don't know and so they're apt to do work that is a little more strenuous.

Ted Simons: Last question real quickly. Someone once said the crackdown on illegal immigration should push more folks to apply legally. Does that equation work?

Nic Suriel: you know, the problem with that is that a lot of people don't understand the immigration system. They don't understand exactly what that means and so it is the larger issue. It's one that hopefully will come back, too.

Ted Simons: Very good. Thank you for your time. Good to have you here.

Cronkite Eight Poll

  |   Video
  • Results from our statewide poll conducted November 19-22.
  • Dr. Bruce Merrill
  • Tara Blanch - Associate Director of the Cronkite-Eight Poll
Category: Cronkite-Eight Poll

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Arizona's new U.S. Attorney says he's going to concentrate on mortgage fraud. Dennis Burke says his office has the go ahead to hire three new attorneys who will focus on mortgage fraud cases. Burke says the Department of Justice in Washington recognizes Arizona has become a hub of white-collar crime. Voters are split on President Obama's job performance but they'd rather not see Sarah Palin as president. Those are a couple of results from the latest Cronkite Eight Poll conducted by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and KAET Eight TV. Poll was conducted the 19th throughout 22nd. 862 registered voters were surveyed. The poll has a margin of error of 3.3%. Dr. Bruce Merrill and Associate Director Tara Blanc join me now. We've got all the questions on the panel. Let's say we get started with the governor's race. There's ancillary aspects of this. Let's start with the first two names.

Bruce Merrill: Basically what we found was that Terry Goddard has a rather significant lead if the election were held today. It's really important to keep in mind there isn't any election today and the real election will be a year from now but we think that the governor is bogged down in the legislature. The governor is in a difficult position that could change between now and the time of the election.

Ted Simons: Tara, the no opinion, the 21% no opinion, what's that say?

Tara Blanc: Basically it says it's too early for a lot of people to it make up their mind. We know by the time we get to the primaries, there'll be other candidates probably at least on the republican side. People likely haven't really started thinking about it. We're interested in it now. A lot of people aren't. That would primarily be because it's so early. Also we do know that as we found in earlier polls, Jan Brewer still has a pretty high percentage of people that aren't familiar with her. There's some of that involved. Terry Goddard, Attorney General, has a highly recognized name recognition.

Ted Simons: Bruce, another poll had Joe Arpaio in the mix here. He seemed to come out very well in that. What do you make out of that?

Bruce Merrill: I make out of that that Joe Arpaio say very popular guy with a lot of people in Maricopa County. How successful would he be as a gubernatorial candidate? He might be stronger than people realize. He'd really have to broaden his appeal outside of just illegal immigration and crime. A lot of really pressing problems and whether or not he'd take the time to educate himself and become proficient in those remain to be seen.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the mayor's race. If Jan comes back to Arizona to take on John McCain, numbers suggest a close race.

Tara Blanc: It's a very close race. We're a year away. This is purely a hypothetical situation. John McCain is enjoying high approval ratings among those here in Arizona. They still love John McCain. He's our native son. He'd have an edge over Janet Napolitano at this point. Janet Napolitano is associated with Obama's Administration. There's impact in there as well.

Ted Simons: There was another poll out there, this time including J.D. Hayworth in the mix against McCain in a primary. This had Hayworth big over McCain. Bruce, what do you make of that?

Bruce Merrill: I'd like to see the methodology of the poll, quite frankly. I didn't know there were other good polls except for ours out there, Ted?

Ted Simons: I know! I'm trying to figure out what is going on out there.

Bruce Merrill: We don't know much about the methodology of the poll. I think J.D. say media personality. I think it'll be very difficult for a republican to beat John McCain. It'll be difficult for a democrat to defeat him in a general election.

Ted Simons: He's pretty strong no matter who the opponent might be?

Bruce Merrill: I think so.

Ted Simons: Let's go to the president. Job performance with the president and evenly divided. Is this trending in any direction one way or another?

Tara Blanc: There's interesting things about that. We asked a few times in the polls about Obama's approval rating. It's split evenly across the board although it dropped slightly over the last few times we've asked. What's really interesting about this is if you look at his approval rating and when you go to the next thing about asking about troops and sending troops to Afghanistan which is also evenly split, one of the interesting thing about Obama is he seems to be a very polarizing figure. You have people who really don't like what he's doing and people who like what he's doing. It's an interesting even split.

Ted Simons: What about independents? On the previous poll we looked at as far as job performance and then the last one with Afghanistan, sending troops there independents showing up?

Tara Blanc: They're showing up and they're splitting.

Ted Simons: They're splitting, too?

Tara Blanc: They're splitting. Uh-huh.

Ted Simons: What's that say for Obama?

Bruce Merrill: The reason the independents are splitting, Ted, is kind of interesting, because we kind of want to look at independents as a home genus political group kind like Hispanics. Neither one of those groups are homo genus. There are independents that lean conservative and independents that lean liberal. Obama tends to get the more moderate independents.

Tara Blanc: The other thing to consider, too, in the questions about Obama, democrats are much more supportive of Obama than republicans are. You can see those percentages are very different. They sort of cancel each other out. The independents splitting are kind of what is playing into the even 50/50 opinion about Obama.

Ted Simons: Who leans harder? The independents toward Obama or the independents against Obama? Away from Obama?

Bruce Merrill: They're really split.

Ted Simons: Really -- it --

Bruce Merrill: It really is yeah. In fact, about 1/3 of the independents in Arizona say they changed from the Republican Party. About 1/3 said they changed from the Democratic Party. And about 1/3 said they've always been independent. So there's a wide variety or a spectrum within the independent classification.

Ted Simons: Well, speaking of someone who at least fancies herself as independent, certainly from the main stream, Sarah Palin. You asked an interesting question. You asked Arizonians regarding Sarah Palin as president and Tara, that's a lot of folks saying no thanks.

Tara Blanc: There's a lot of folks. I don't think it's that surprising in Arizona to tell you the truth. Think about, again, the fact that she's taken shots at john McCain. And so even among support from republicans was higher for the presidency than democrats. 10% of democrats say they'd like to see her as president, 20% of the independents and 43% of republicans. Her book from what I understand, wasn't particularly kind to John McCain and the campaign. I suspect there's fallout from that.

Ted Simons: Even so this is on though, Bruce, she's got a fanatical following. I was surprised there was that much even with McCain bashing, so to speak, that's a lot of folks saying no.

Bruce Merrill: I was surprised. Nationally about 25% of the people think she's qualified to be president so it's a little lower here but I think the thing, Ted, that's really important is you have to give her credit for a lot of things. A woman with five kids, child with down syndrome, she's elected governor of a major state, she's become kind of a celebrity, an icon for kind of the world as we knew it in the past but that doesn't mean that they can't respect her for that but still not want to see her as president. We have asked specifically, would you like to see her be president sometime in the future? And most people in America don't see her qualified to be president.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Last question regarding the economic situation and it looks at least from the numbers that Arizona voters are optimistic. A little bit of a surprise there?

Tara Blanc: We were very surprised by that result. Better than 50% of the people we talked to thought their economic situation would be better next year than this year. What's really interesting is democrats were twice as likely to say that they thought their situation would be better than republicans.

Ted Simons: Why do you think that is, Bruce?

Bruce Merrill: Well, I think part of it may be that they're betting on the future with Obama. They're democrats. We have a democratic president. He's trying to do something about the economy. It may be kind of a hallow effect for support for Obama but I don't know other than that.

Ted Simons: All right, very interesting numbers, both of you. Thank you, again, for joining us on "Horizon."

Teacher Lawsuit

  |   Video
  • The Arizona Education Association has filed a special action with the Arizona Supreme Court against Governor Jan Brewer and the Arizona State Legislature over policy changes approved in special session that impact teacher’s salaries, contracts and their involvement in professional association activities. AEA President John Wright talks about the lawsuit.
  • John Wright - Head of the AEA

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The Arizona Education Association just filed a lawsuit against the governor and state lawmakers over changes made regarding educators. According to the AEA, the policy changes allow arbitrary reductions in salary, prohibit seniority as a criterion for reduction in force and eliminating deadlines for issuing contracts. Here now to discuss the lawsuit is John Wright, Head of the AEA. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining.

John Wright: Thank you. Nice to be here.

Ted Simons: They violated the constitution. How?

John Wright: They violated the constitution in the way that they adopted these new policies. Passed this particular legislation. The special session, the third special session of this past legislature, was called for specific purposes outlined by the governor as she's required to do in the constitution. Of the four purposes were basically these, to address the budget deficit, to potentially impose a temporary sales tax in order to help that, to look for ways to go for voter-protected funds to help the budget and one other area, state tax reform necessary for the future of the state. Within that context, they put the policies into law you just described without any relationship to an appropriation, to the budget, deficit or taxes.

Ted Simons: And yet the critics and lawmakers will say that dealing with 10-year contract renewals, these sorts of things, those things do involve the budget in that teachers are paid because of those activities.

John Wright: Not one of those features involves the state budget. There are always policies associated with budget bills. There has to be. When you're going to spend money, allocate money or appropriate money, there are policies that go along with the agency requirements for those funds and particular uses for those funds but none of the money in the budget as it was earmarked for education through the department of education goes to district-specific decisions such as those and these are a couple of the points you've made prohibitions so it's not even giving the district the latitude to determine what's best for their situation and their employees, prohibiting the use of seniority as criteria for teacher retention. This prohibits it. So it really takes away local control and takes away the authority of the district as an employer to work with their employees.

Ted Simons: Speaker Adams says this kind of thing is well established. It's nothing new.

John Wright: It's well established to have policies related to the use of the funds. These aren't policies related to budget cuts. These are policies that couldn't get passed during a regular session so they were inserted into a budget bill without debate, without committee hearing and without public discussion.

Ted Simons: Speaker Adams says in the grand scheme of things, a budget is a policy-setting document. Overall, it all comes down to how much money the state has, how much money was appropriated regardless of the channel.

John Wright: The budget is not a district policy document. The budget is a state policy document. The speaker is correct there. Under the auspices of the state, districts are political subdivisions. They have certain sets of rights, responsibilities and obligations, one of which is to set the terms of employment for the teachers and support professionals that they hire. I just don't think it's a good idea. It's not good policy. It's not good government. For the state legislature to get involved in these sorts employment regulations, it's not good government. The republican majority and legislature wants to be involved in employee to employer relationships.

Ted Simons: When lawmakers say they dealing with the budget because they're dealing with moneys that eventually flow down from the districts and from the districts eventually go to teacher activities and these sorts of things, you say?

John Wright: They're micro managing to determine how a district decides what sort of criteria they use it either layoff or recall teachers who have been laid off. When they decide that a district can't enter an arrangement contractural with an employee for association work, they're micro managing the district's responsibilities. They should step back and use leadership responsibility look and at the state budget. What families need.

Ted Simons: Do they micro manage in other areas and parts of the budget? Is this unique education? Does this micro management go all the time in other areas?

John Wright: I'm not nearly as familiar with other areas as I am with education, of course. I believe there's nor micro management in education and more of it happening now because education is such a large part of the budget. Frankly, I think there were numbers of the far right wing in the Republican Party that didn't appreciate active AEA lobbying by our members through the summer some the special session. There was a lot of anger down there. We want people to be literally looking over their shoulders when they do their work. We think that's an obligation.

Ted Simons: I heard this is the ideas and what's in the law is reflective of what national government is looking for with the Obama Administration wants in rates of the top education grants and these sorts things. How do you respond?

John Wright: I don't see that written into any of the language or intent. I've heard some say it'll be a national trend to have employment policies, hiring, tenure, seniority, dismissal, based performance. That's not in the law. It just says what a district can't do. If we need to have these discussions in Arizona, let's have them in the same way we're having them nationally. Let's have them in open forums, committee hearings, public debate, teacher input instead of inserting them into a budget bill, never having any discussion and then having it voted on in the middle of the night literally.

Ted Simons: I'm -- I can see some viewers right now saying, "time off for teachers for union activities." How's that a good thing?

John Wright: There are some districts that have made the determination that for some of our AEA local association leaders, having them fulfill local association responsibilities during their workday instead of one or two times or more during the day when they would otherwise be teaching is actually of assistance to the district they help out with human relations it. It helps out with potential grievances that could be solved at a lower level before it escalates it helps with personal relationships and personnel relationships between the employees and the district. The districts made that determination. I don't think it's up to the legislature to say, no, we think that's bad employment practices. Let the district decide.

Ted Simons: Last question, you've not asked for a restraining order. You want the change and you want it now. Talk to me why.

John Wright: Well, our attorneys have said that the best way for us to proceed is to file this special action. By its very nature, a special action has some urgency to it. And the supreme court has a good history of responding fairly quickly in terms of we will hear it or won't hear it. We think it'll be a pretty quick response for them to say yes, we think this is important to make a decision on and we'll hear it or no you need to go to the lower courts.

Ted Simons: Thank you, John, for joining us. We appreciate it.

John Wright: I appreciate it.