Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

October 12, 2007


Host:

Journalists Roundtable


  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas:
It's Friday, October 12th, 2007. In the headlines this week, the Phoenix Police Union steps into the illegal immigration debate. Senator John McCain has a plan for health care and putting people back to work. And we'll talk about the water or lack thereof in Arizona. That's next on "Horizon."

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Richard Ruelas:
Good evening. I'm Richard Ruelas and this is the "Journalist's Roundtable." Joining me to talk about these and other stories are: Mary Jo Pitzl of the "Arizona Republic," Paul Giblin of the East Valley Tribune, and Howie Fischer of Capitol Media Services. Thanks for joining us this evening. Let's start with immigration as we seem to always do at the "Journalist's Roundtable." Mary Jo, what happened with the city? There seemed to be a daily dueling news conferences nonstop of police and the unions talking about enforcing immigration law.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Correct. Earlier this week you had the Police Union coming out saying,
"we wouldn't mind, we did a poll, and we think we should have more active role in immigration enforcement. At the same time you had the police chief coming out and sort of expounding upon, expanding upon, why the city of Phoenix does not want its officers doing the immigration enforcement. You sort have the rank and file pushing against the management.

Richard Ruelas:
You have the kind of insight that the Journalist Roundtable is kind of known for of course. It couldn't have just been happenstance that these two news conferences happened on the same day within hours of each other.

Howard Fischer:
Shocked, shocked to know that. Well the nice thing about things on the daybook is everybody knows what everybody else is doing.

Richard Ruelas:
The daybook being that calendar that we all look at that Associated Press puts out?

Howard Fischer:
Yes. The issue comes down to, for years the police unions went a long with the chiefs, particularly on the issue of immigration enforcement and the main reason was for that was the argument that if the migrant community sees police officers as extensions of immigration and customs enforcement, they won't come forward to report crimes and as witnesses. What happened in the intervening time are two things. Number one we have new leader of the police union who conducted a poll, and number two one of their own was shot by an illegal immigrant. A lot of this had been percolating for a while. It kind of bubbled over and they said, "why can't we when we want to call I.C.E. and say come out and help us?" The chief got wind of that and tried to preempt the whole thing and say, we can't have it happen. It takes up too much time and we should be fighting real crime. I think the public sides with the officers with this one.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think this might be a precursor, Russell Pierce has a ballot initiative, petitions that are being circulated right now that would allow local police agencies to have the immigration enforcement authority. If they have enough signatures, blah, blah, blah. This is likely to be on the ballot in November of 08.

Richard Ruelas:
Is Pierce's initiative saying that officers will enforce the law or contact I.C.E. more frequently?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Enforce the law as I recall.

Howard Fischer:
What it specifically says is it bars sanctuary policies. And that could be any policy that allows illegals to violate the law and to the extent that people know about it.

Richard Ruelas:
And allows an officers to contact someone and not ask their status?

Howard Fischer:
Yes. And very clearly in many cities, not just here in the valley but in Tucson, the same thing. If you stop someone for a routine traffic violation, you don't ask are you here illegally? Because the moment you ask and they tell you, now you are in a situation where you are ignoring a violation of the law.

Paul Giblin:
When you say the police enforce it, now the way they enforce it is they ask that person, "Are you illegal?" and presumably the person would say, "Si, I'm illegal." And then they would bring them downtown and then call I.C.E., right. The local cops aren't really doing a whole lot of law enforcement there?

Howard Fischer:
Here's the yes and no. Number one, they could certainly hold them there until I.C.E. arrives, they don't have to bring them down town. And number two there are police officers in this state who have gotten what they call federal training. Because normally local police can't enforce federal law unless they are specially trained. Some local police officers, in fact some members of the State Department of Corrections has gotten special training which allows them to determine whether somebody is here illegally. It's not just a simple question of saying yes or no, there's certain questions you ask there's certain procedures. The officers who have this 287 training can in fact make the arrest, bring them downtown and tell I.C.E. to come pick them up. They are illegal.

Paul Giblin:
But that's all they're doing. They turn them over to I.C.E. anyway, correct?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
But part of the argument that we've heard from the police officials, I guess, the management, is there is a big time issue there you can't just let these people sit there. You have to stay with them and the paperwork has to be filled out and it takes awhile for I.C.E. to get there and with a bus and van to transport. There you go with the officers off the streets and are tied up with this.

Richard Ruelas:
A couple of years ago in Mesa there seemed to be an incident on the freeway where Mesa officers let a bunch of admitted migrants go because I.C.E. wouldn't show up for hours. I think now ICE says they will show fairly timely. 4

Howard Fischer:
Here's the way the public thinks of it. If there's laws on the books, certainly police choose which laws to enforce. I'm sure there are cops that'll pull over a couple of teenagers with a joint in the ashtray and say look, I could spend eight hours in paperwork or just take the thing and toss it out. And that's it. It does happen. What happens though is that if this person that they stopped and let go, kills someone else either in a crime or drunk driving or something else, then the question comes back to the officers, well, wait. Why didn't you take the person off the streets? Given we've had repeated situations in Arizona where people are here illegally and may have been arrested and released and are committing other crimes. I think the public's attitude is wait a second, if we can get them off the street before they kill somebody else that's not a bad idea.

Richard Ruelas:
Most recently, Eric Martinez the suspected shooter in the officer's slaying. Staying on immigration, as we often do, the issue of employer sanctions and jobs. You have the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in town and I think both of you attended. What did they say?

Howard Fischer:
Well not surprisingly, the business community believes foreign work is good. Tom Donahue said, not only do we need the 12 million illegals who are already here, who are presumably working but we in fact need more foreigners, now presumably legally, he wants more of a visa process. His argument is businesses would not survive without these laborers. It's not a question of agriculture where farmers are saying it's cheaper to lease land in Mexico and grow the crops there than to grow it here and risk not to have anyone to harvest your melons. There are other industries that have become very dependant on it. Now, the real question here is: is this a question of money? I believe, as John McCain does, that you are not going to get some people to pick lettuce in Yuma in July. Whether you're paying $50 an hour or not.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
There's no lettuce in Yuma in July.

Richard Ruelas:
But to your point, there are stories in other communities where you're seeing onion fields, I think CBS news had one this week, you see onion fields go unpicked because we couldn't find pickers.

Howard Fischer:
But there is a financial component. One of the things I looked at is, I went back and looked at the Department of Economics Security Statistics--I hate saying that over and over.

Richard Ruelas:
Yes.

Howard Fischer:
Since 2001, the average hourly wage in Arizona went up more than 12\%. But then I looked at two specific industries that tends to employ a lot of illegals, carpenters and roofers. Their wages have gone up less than 8\%. Now tell me that somehow these companies are not looking for cheaper labor. It's not a question of supply but a question of what you are willing to pay.

Paul Giblin:
I want to know, are there a lot of illegals working in journalism because our wages have not done that?

Howard Fischer:
That's the whole problem. We have more kids graduating from ASU Journalism School than we knew what to do with so we can't bargain.

Paul Giblin:
On a serious note though, Tom Donahue also spoke about the demographics of the United States and how baby boomers are getting to the retirement age and there's not the population behind them to fill those job nor to fill the new jobs being created in the meantime. If we are not giving them to the native born Americans, then who's going to fill those jobs?

Howard Fischer:
Not a question. In terms of the service industry, there are certain jobs you can't export. Nursing homes for example. What you're talking about.

Paul Giblin:
No, no, no. Not just who's going to take care of the old people when they retire.

Howard Fischer:
The old geezers.

Paul Giblin:
But the jobs that they're leaving. Who's going to replace them?

Howard Fischer:
There are issues and that comes down to the point of increasing the number of visas. The visa process in this country, not only do we have an artificially low number, but we also have a process that's so hard for the farmers and the companies to work. The other side of equation, it may make sense for some of the jobs that are here may make more sense to manufacture things overseas. Mattel doesn't manufacture dolls in the US. It manufactures them in China because it makes more sense and cheaper to do it there. Paint them with lead paint perhaps and import them back into the country than to manufacture them here. We have to decide, are we a service economy or a production economy? I think the United States can become more of a service economy.

Richard Ruelas:
I guess, Mary Jo, from watching at the capitol we have heard the last session from business groups in general coming out and saying we need these workers. We have not heard from specific employers. We heard from industry groups. We haven't heard from specific employers. Do you think we are seeing more people-I guess there's a hesitation to come forward and say, "I run this business and when you eat my food, you are eating food put out by --

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Because nobody really wants to be the poster child for that but on Tuesday--no, Wednesday. At the Capitol there was a hearing put out by House Speaker Jim Weirs put together after the employer sanctions was put into law there was an outcry from the business groups and that maybe they should get a forum to air their problems.

Richard Ruelas:
He was the guest last night. He's the only legislature on committee. He said it went pretty quickly.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
He said he was trying to keep it short and tight so people would come back to subsequent meetings. On that panel that he assembled, there were people from the agriculture industry who run specific farm operations, the President of the Yuma Chamber of Commerce. They talked a lot about the impediments that this new state law could put in there path. They are not advocating dumping the law but someone on the group is challenging it in the court. They want to fine tune it and find out the problems. It was a fascinating exchange because as they were raising all the questions, at one point the speaker said, yeah, this is about as clear as mud.

Howard Fischer:
And that's the key point to the whole thing. This measure was prepared essentially behind closed doors. This was done quietly because they knew, you know, the speakers--the speakers--the speaker because the business group came up and put a lot of money in his last campaign and had political pressure to do something. They quietly prepared this thing and shoved it through without a lot of hearings. And now he's saying, okay, now we'll ask what the problems are. Well, duh, if you had done that before, maybe you wouldn't have a bill that has questions about what are frivolous complaints? About how do you take away a license from one location and not the other location where they are not employing illegals? That all should have been done first.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
What's going to be interesting about this is this group will continue its work and come up with some recommendations and Weirs will take them to the legislature. Maybe we'll see a bill. And, oh my goodness, when 2008 dawns that legislature will be immigration all the time with a little bit of budget thrown in.

Richard Ruelas:
Do you get the idea that it's going to have a tough road if you want to tweak to the law, people will say you are just gutting this thing.

Paul Giblin:
I think, any immigration law that's going to be introduced at the state or municipal level they will all go kerflooey. Honestly it's not going to be until the federal government…

Richard Ruelas:
For closed captioning we may need kerflooey spelled out.

Paul Giblin:
I don't think any of these laws are really going to work. As Tom Donahue said, they are often times conflicting. They're found illegal all the time. I think we are going to have to wait for the federal government to make it happen.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
That won't stop the legislature from having measures of course. At the same time by January you'll have some ruling in the federal court case challenging the constitutionality of Arizona's law. So maybe the law will be the force or maybe it won't. And then you'll have the petitions drives happening.

Paul Giblin:
Look what's happening. We've had a resent court decision in Pennsylvania and one in California and another one in Arizona. All these things do is effect law in Pennsylvania, California and Arizona. It won't be until we get a federal--

Richard Ruelas:
State houses don't seem to learn lessons from each other's laws because the pressures are so great.

Paul Giblin:
No, not at all.

Howard Fischer:
First of all the California decision affects the entire country because it dealt with the social security administration. They chose to bring the lawsuit in northern district of California. So that affects the whole thing of no match notices. The point Mary Jo makes about that we're going to have a ruling are from the judge, I think that chances are very good, and I'd be willing to bet somebody lunch, that the judge will conclude there's constitutional problems in the law that the state is intruding on the federal area. So then the lawmakers come back on the first week of January and say, uh, we still got this initiative out there. What can we do? What can we get away with? And they are going to feel the heat politically to do something but what they will be able to do depends on how the decision is written.

Richard Ruelas:
Staying on court decisions because and briefly because we'll move on from immigration soon, the board of barrier. There was some testimony that the wall might be doing environmental damage and then testimony saying that not having the wall is doing environmental damage?

Howard Fischer:
This is an interesting case. They're building a 370 mile stretch of wall from Calexico over to Pass Douglass. One of the stretches goes through the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. This is a two mile stretch from the bottom of the San Pedro River where it crosses from Mexico into the U.S. The Bureau of Land Management did not do an environmental impact statement. They just sort of looked at quickly and said no problem because we're not going to build a wall we're going to put in vehicle barriers. Defenders of Wildlife, Siera Club sued and said you changed the flow of the water and it causes erosion and sedimentation effects the animals and plants that live there and what happened is Judge Ellan Huvell from the district court in the District of Columbia issued a ruling saying, further work will stop until I get a chance to look at this. It's going to be interesting to see whether the judge says, you know, that Homeland Security and BLM did the job right or whether it will conclude that they simply rushed it through and didn't care about the environment.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
The counter argument is if you don't do something to stop some of the immigration across the border that has even more environment degradation because people are making rogue trails and the trash. I've been down there and we've all seen the footage of a lot of the trash that is left behind.

Richard Ruelas:
Moving on to politicians. Arizona Senator and Presidential contender John McCain was campaigning this week. He unveiled a couple of changes he'd like to see. First, putting people back to work. That's an original one. Paul, what were some the other things McCain talked about this weeks? Was healthcare one of them?

Paul Giblin:
Healthcare, things he doesn't normally talk about and not well-known for and I guess he thought it was time to roll those things out. Things that Hillary Clinton has been pushing out. So he did it in Detroit and that was an interesting place to do it. A lot of unemployment out there.

Richard Ruelas:
How detailed are his plans?

Paul Giblin:
Not that detailed. Talk to him about issues on war and that sort of thing, he'll give you verse and line. But these are just kind of broad, sweeping measures.

Howard Fischer:
What is interesting--his healthcare plan was more of what it's not going to have. It's not a Massachusetts-style plan where everybody has to buy insurance. It's going to provide more choices and it's going to be affordable.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
But he didn't explain how.

Howard Fischer:
I mean, yeah, this is as good as Phil Lopez, the House Minority leader, who wanted a universal healthcare plan. Well, what is it going to cost? I don't know. Well, where will the money come from? I don't know. But as you point out, everyone is doing healthcare. Other than the war it is THE issue this year for Washington.

Richard Ruelas:
We entered a time in political speeches where people speak in the words that are behind them pretty much mean what they're saying. It's like a bumper sticker slogan.

Howard Fischer: Talked about bumper stickers, have you noticed that every politician now has one of these walls behind them with the same word over and over. It's sort of like, well, if you're too stupid to hear what they're saying, maybe the subliminal message will work.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Is that even subliminal?

Richard Ruelas: Mitt Romney was in the valley. I guess, depending on what poll you read, is still in it in Arizona.

Paul Giblin: He's around 17\% in Arizona, behind McCain and sometimes behind Thompson. And I guess behind those guys.

Richard Ruelas: And he rolled out his immigration plan. How detailed was that?

Howard Fischer: I don't even know if he was rolling out a plan. Legal immigration good. Illegal immigration bad. People in this country shouldn't get special treatment. Essentially it's it. You want to know why Mitt Romney was here? Raising money. The guy has yet to hold a real conversation with Arizonans. Thirteen minutes at Sky Harbor Airport with half a dozen reporters is not a conversation. He was here because Paul Gilbert who is a Scottsdale attorney and had a fund-raiser at his home and he walked away with a pot of money. That's why he came to Arizona.

Paul Giblin: I'll give the guy credit. At least he comes to Arizona and he does talk to the media. I believe that was his third time, maybe his fourth time. We haven't seen anyone else here that frequently, including John McCain. John McCain has not been since he's been a presidential candidate, talking to reporters that often.

Richard Ruelas: Is Romney's support as simple as there is a large LDS community in Mesa. And he's of that faith?

Paul Giblin: Well, yes and no. That's certainly is a lot of it. If you talk to the campaign supporters, I was at his rally where they are doing the phone trees, and they were all, well I shouldn't say all, but many of them were LDS. Another way he's getting support, he's sort of the flavor of the day. People are dissatisfied with McCain and they don't trust Giuliani. Along comes Romney and they don't know a lot about him. He's the flavor of the day. He's republican and he looks good. And so let's make him our candidate. Until they know a little more about him and then they move on. I think that's why we have Fred Thompson. He's kind of the flavor of the day now and I think Romney was yesterday's flavor of the day.

Richard Ruelas: Although, I think that flavor seemed to ebb pretty quickly.

Howard Fischer: It's Ron Paul. Ron Paul.

Richard Ruelas: They are putting business cards on our windshields right now right now.

Howard Fischer: Let me tell you the interesting thing about Ron Paul, because we all seem to blow him off as sort of a nut case. There are a lot of young first-time voter republicans because of his consistent position against the war, who are turning out as registered republicans. They are also spending a lot of money on these hand made signs. Which don't show up on his financial disclosure. Even though he's raising a lot of money. Talk about somebody who may surprise us on February 5th, it could be Ron Paul.

Richard Ruelas: Especially on the campus here of ASU. We can see the sheets and some of those hand made signs you are talking about. Harry Mitchell came to town and was speaking in support of Bush's tax cuts.

Paul Giblin: Yes, in fact, he comes to town a lot. He knows he's a democrat in a republican district. I believe he's only not coming back two weekends. He's here every single weekend talking to somebody.

Richard Ruelas: And he's not just here for the enchiladas at Restaurant Mexico?

Paul Giblin: No. But in this instance he was at the Scottsdale Chambers and speaking about the tax cuts that bush had in 2001 and 2003 and capitol gains tax and death taxes. And those tax cuts are set to expire--if memory serves--in 2011. He introduced a bill with a republican cosigner to continue the tax cuts indefinitely which will make them permanent which sounds not exactly like a typical democrat platform.

Richard Ruelas: Do you think he was here to sort of get the barometer of what the district feels or was it a lot of principle or politics here?

>>: That's a good question. He invited in a lot of financial experts. They all concurred and agreed. They said in this district in particular, and his district is Scottsdale and Tempe largely. They said there's a lot of independent businesses here. And these tax cuts, death taxes would allow mom and pop shops which might not have a whole lot daily revenue but they build a lot of assets with their printing company or their restaurant or whatever and when they die it's worth millions of dollars and with these death taxes being high the offspring or children will not collect a whole lot off it without this sort of thing kicking in.

Richard Ruelas: Environment Arizona released a report. Mary Jo, is the water safe to drink here in Phoenix?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Not according to Environment Arizona. They did some sampling and said that they found instances where water had high levels of contaminates. Interestingly, the top contaminate was chlorine. Without having looked at the report in great detail, I mean, if you recall we put chlorine in it. That is one element that we use to help cleanup our water.

Howar Fischer: I think this is much more of an alarmist-type view. Again, you point out that chlorine being the main thing, and that's of course what makes the water taste like it does. Which is why we all have filters and spend a lot of money on bottled water. Don't drink that stuff. I'll tell ya. It will kill ya. I'm always suspicious of environmental groups that haven't been around for a long time and coming in with some so-called expert opinions on how, oh, my, god, the world as we know it is ending. Look, this is another group looking to try and get some publicity. Are their some facts behind the report? Sure. But is it as alarmists as they say, oh, my, god, 46\% of the water sources are not complying. Come on, give me break.

Richard Ruelas: We have about a minute left and the briefest discussion of the English Language Learner's. We're going to try and encapsulate the 25 year…but let me try, I guess. The judge had a ruling in front of him as to whether or not the state had done enough in the last session to fund English learners.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Basically, yesterday a federal district judge said: Look, Arizona, the state, you blew it, you had a deadline to adequately fund programs for English learners. You didn't do it, I'm holding you in contempt. We won't start penalties until March 4th so get your act together.

Richard Ruelas:
Did he say what the penalties might be?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
No. But the plaintiff's attorney has suggested that do fines that start $500,000 a day up to million dollars a day.

Howard Fischer:
The interesting thing on this is that while they gave them until March 4th, which I think they can meet as far as the programs that they want, the real problem is that two conditions in the state's program are illegal. Two-year limit on extra funding and basically telling districts you have to use the federal money first before you replace it.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Bottom line this will remain in court well into it 2008.

Richard Ruelas:
But March 4th, we're not even to the point where we are figuring out the budget yet, right?

Howard Fischer:
It doesn't matter. Mary Jo and I are going to San Francisco on December 4th where the ninth circuit is going to be arguing the whole appeal. Whether they upheld what Rainer Collins did in Tucson or not we'll know by March 4th. It's all academic.

Richard Ruelas:
And none of the legislatures really have the desire to keep this spending going. They are not eager to dispense of it.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
The Republican leadership feels this is a principled argument. They don't think the federal government should tell them how much money should be spent on these programs.

Paul Giblin:
They've been having the principled arguments for 10 years?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
No, 15.

Howard Fischer:
It's only been since 1992 that the lawsuit was filed. I hope to outlive the end of this lawsuit.

Richard Ruelas:
That's true. Not only that lawsuit but the consent order. I guess this gets wrapped up in the immigration thing and I guess we have time to briefly mentions--as we speak about rationality and the immigration debate - the Tucson, Arizona, Sonora...

Mary Jo Pitzl:
The Desert Museum down in Tucson. Apparently earlier this week they took down the Mexican flag that was flying there along the U.S. Flag. After a couple of days and some reconsideration, it's back up flying along side the U.S. flag.

Richard Ruelas:
Well that will wrap us for this Friday. We'll continue it in the after show. Thank you for joining us on this Friday.

Larry Lemmons:
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. We take a look at the problem in the valley. A conversation with journalist and author, Robin Wright who talks about her experiences in the Middle East. And the arts are making an impact on the valley economy according to a recent study. Monday night at 7:00 on Channel 8's "Horizon."

Richard Ruelas:
Tuesday, a new Channel 8 poll, what do Arizonans think about the new employer sanctions law? Wednesday, some big cases the Supreme Court is dealing with. Thursday, a special on science and technology. Friday, we'll be back with another edition of the "Journalist's Roundtable." Coming up, child marriages around the world. A tale of heartbreak and hope. That's next on now. I'm Richard Ruelas. Have a great weekend. Good night.

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