Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

December 7, 2007


Host:

Journalists Roundtable


  • Ted Simons hosts HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Casey Newton - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
>>>Ted Simons:
It's Friday, December 7th, 2007. In headlines this week, phoenix mayor Phil Gordon decides to look at a change in policy on dealing with illegal immigrants. We'll take a look at a proposed ballot issue that would stop birth certificates being given to children of illegal immigrants. And a look at phoenix's economic picture, next on "horizon."

>>>Ted Simons:
Good evening, I'm Ted Simons, and this is the "journalists roundtable." joining me to talk about these and other stories are Casey Newton of "the Arizona republic," Mike Sunnucks of "the business journal," and Howard Fischer of capitol media services. Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon is looking at changes to a police on illegal immigration. Casey, why did the mayor do this and why did he do it now?

>>Casey Newton:
The policy the police have had for 20 years says, in most cases when the police stop you, you they can't ask about your immigration status. What the mayor came out on Monday and said was the police should be able to ask you about your immigration status no matter what they stop you for. Why did he do it now? Political pressure is the short answer to that question. At the federal level, congress has failed to enact meaningful reform. We've already seen the state take action with employer sanctions, and now cities are taking action, trying to solve some of these problems themselves.

>>Howard Fischer:
There is a big division between a police chief who says, we don't want to discourage people from reporting crimes if they're victims. And the rank and file officers say we're running into these people every day. We've got gang activity, this provides us another tool to use that our department has said we can't use.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Arpaios's already doing this. He's been going out and arresting illegal immigrants. A lot of folks are coming over across the border, gang members, involved with drug cartels, repeat offenders. They are being deported a lot, and a lot of times they are very violent offenders. This is like what they did in New York with Rudy Giuliani. They would arrest people for minor crimes and find out bigger crimes.

>>Howard Fischer:
Here's part of the problem. When Sheriff Joe is sending out his deputies, these people have been specifically cross-trained by immigration to enforce immigration law. If officers are not cross trained, they can ask. But if the guy says, yes, I'm here legally, then what do you do? You might be able, under certain circumstances, to hold suspects until ICE arrives. ICE has got things better to do than run out after every officer --

>>Mike Sunnucks:
They're going to use it in conjunction with enforcing other laws. If they pull you over for speeding, drug dealing, they're going to be able to ask you.

>>Howard Fischer:
The problem is, you talk about speeding and everything else, if you're arresting somebody, because you think they're here illegally, there's a lawsuit going to happen on that.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
That is part of this thing. He doesn't want to violate anybody's constitutional rights. He's appointed grant woods and some other folks to kind of do this policy.

>>Ted Simons:
Let's talk about this four-member panel. Are they going to throw suggestions out there, listen to a bunch of ideas? And then do what?

>>Casey Newton:
They are going to do that. At the same time, police chief Jack Harris has appointed a 20-person panel of his own that was already doing interviews before Mayor Gordon came out on Monday. You're going to have dueling panels over the next few weeks.

>>>Mike Sunnucks:
It's in response to the killing of the officer. The guy who did it was an illegal immigrant. It was a Scottsdale police officer who pulled him over and didn't know what the deal was. Obviously he was a violent criminal. If this policy was in place in Scottsdale, Phoenix, other places, we might have avoided this.

>>Casey Newton:
Phoenix Police would disagree, they would say we did what we were supposed to do, we caught the guy, deported him. It was the feds who let them back across the border. That threw a ton of heat on. You really started to hear street officers saying we want more tools; we want to be able to call ICE.

>>Howard Fischer:
Let's talk about one of the points you made initially, which is politics. One of the things that the mayor of phoenix is discovering now, that Janet Napolitano has discovered now, this is the key issue. Phil Gordon would like to do something after he's mayor. This is the number one issue, and in the presidential race this year. It will become the number one issue in the 2010 gubernatorial race. He needs to be out front, rather than a Johnnie latecomer.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
He needs to be tough. Janet was trying to be tough enough. You see it in the polls, the fox station here had a poll, a clear majority, 60, 70, 80\% oppose driver's licenses for illegals. A clear majority want people, if you're pulled over by the cops and you're an illegal immigrant, they want you deported.

>>Ted Simons:
Judicial watch, a threatened recall. Much of a factor here?

>>Howard Fischer:
Look, take a look at the polls that channel 8 has run. That's where it gets interesting. If you ask people, should police be able to enforce immigration laws, by a collateral damage margin, they say yes. Then what are the duties they are not doing, and is it going to cost us more money? That's what the chief's commission or mayor's commission comes up with. Can we do it with the officers we've got? The city is facing a budget shortfall because sales tax revenues are down. How do we do this without letting other things fall off? That's just a lot of huffing and puffing, as far as judicial watch. You need the equivalent of 25\% of the people who voted in the last election. Not going to happen.

>>Casey Newton:
I disagree, Howie. I think judicial watch's huffing and puffing led the mayor to move on Monday. They were talking about a lawsuit against this police operations order 1.4. They are also suing the city of Los Angeles for LA's special order 40, I believe it's called, essentially the same thing phoenix had. The mayor saw another lawsuit coming that would generate a lot of nasty headlines. So he may have bought himself a free pass on that issue.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
That's something that gives phoenix the sanctuary label all the conservatives give them. It's bad press for Phil Gordon and the city to have that label, that phoenix is a place where illegal immigrants can come commit crimes and police aren't going to go after them.

>>Ted Simons:
Calming effect? Do you agree?

>>Howard Fischer:
Overlaying all this is what's happening with the employer sanctions law. We were hoping to have a decision this week from the judge. We don't know when that's going to take effect. We heard from restaurant owners saying business is off. Calming, in terms of keeping the heat off of Phil for a while? Yeah. But on the whole issue of immigration, this is a very small piece of it. Here's the other question. What is this going to mean in terms of the weekly conferences in front of Pruitt's? Does that mean police are going to be stopping people there? If they're not violating the law, they're not going to be questioned by city police. So what's the point?

>>Ted Simons:
The mayor says this will have a calming effect. Is he just blowing smoke here?

>>Casey Newton:
I think he may have bought himself some time. I have an office where the mayor has his, in city hall. I kept waiting for the receptionist to get calls. The immigration hard-liners may have been temporarily appeased. The mayor would even tell you, there's nothing I can do to appease everyone on the far right. He may think the times have changed and this is a necessary change.

>>Ted Simons:
Do you think the critics are going to be satisfied, at least for the time being?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
It might take the direct heat off of Phil Gordon. They'll look for the next politician that's weak on immigration, Hillary Clinton maybe. It may be unpopular with the Hispanic community and the media, but it's popular with the folks watching the news.

>>>Ted Simons:
Phil Gordon's move. Does it make him a winner or loser, politically?

>>Howard Fischer:
Well, I think it makes him a winner in terms of who votes and given the low turnout among Hispanics in city and state elections. Has he picked up more votes? Yes. If that makes him a winner, sure.

>>Casey Newton:
I think it remains to be seen. I think the big town hall could produce a lot of heat on the mayor to try to maintain some semblance of the current policy.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
It might hurt him. They already question his partisan liberal credentials, versus Goddard. It could hurt him in the primary; help him with the general electorate.

>>Ted Simons:
Speaking of the polls, showing that Andrew Thomas is losing a little bit of support, and not a heck of a lot, and Arpaio is just cruising.

>>Howard Fischer:
That's always been. How long has Joe been there and how long -- the guy has figured out, you know, he's coated with Teflon. People die in the jails, lawsuits against the county, payouts, the whole thing with lacey and everything else. People say, but he's tough on criminals, he's patrolling them all, got the pink underwear, feeding green baloney to the inmates, he can do no wrong. Andy Thomas I think is trying to play Joe light, if you want to call it that, hasn't built that reputation. He comes across as more petty and more petulant. He hasn't built up that good will which allows him to come out there. He doesn't have the bombast. Joe is -- you remember the large chickens from the cartoons? That's Joe. Andy doesn't carry it off.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
The media made such a big deal about the "New Times" thing. That's such a nonstory to most people out there in the state. It's an elitist story, for folks who like to talk about the first amendment. It certainly is not hurting Arpaio. People like it. The media like it, we like Joe. He's good copy.

>>Casey Newton:
I disagree actually. If you look at what people were saying on the storage house, people were outraged by this. That got more comments than anything else.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
But the people voting for him are not the ones going to azcentral or the New Times.

>>Casey Newton:
Sheriff Joe's approval ratings have been in the 80's. He's bragged about them. You look at the Rocky Mountain poll now they're saying it's 59\%. I don't think it's because he's been aggressively pursuing illegal immigrants. I think the new times exacerbation had a lot to do with it.

>>Ted Simons:
Howie, you were in San Francisco for the e.l.l.

>>Howard Fischer:
I had a very nice dinner there.

>>Ted Simons:
But what happens this week in federal court?

>>Howard Fischer:
Starting at the beginning, 1992, you know, the parents in the Nogales sued say the children aren't learning. 2000, a federal judge told the state, you're not doing it right, several other judges told the state you're not doing it right. The state's position is we're doing as much as we legally need to do. They are trying to appeal the order in 2006 from the judge in Tucson saying you haven't done it, and the 2007 contempt citation for not having done more. Their argument is kids are learning, kids are doing better. Or maybe they'll say kids is learning, or something like that. The problem that the judges had with the argument is you're using the wrong measures. For example, the attorney for the legislature said, look at the no child left behind standard. Our schools are in compliance with no child left behind. But the judges point out no child left behind is essentially, if you're here, you ought to get here, and then here. The federal law says you will provide now opportunities for kids to learn English. The evidence is not there, according to the district judge, that in fact you're funding it the way it should be done. The judges took it under advisement. I'd be willing to bet you lunch and dinner in San Francisco that they're going to find the state is still not in compliance and we could end up before the US Supreme Court.

>>Ted Simons:
It sounded like the judges are saying, what are you doing here in the first place? Can't you work this out yourselves?

>>Howard Fischer:
I think it was not the same ninth circuit panel that heard it earlier. 1992, case file. 2000, the first court rule, and it's now approaching 2008. The judges don't understand the politics of this. It's not just about $365 dollars extra per English learning student now. Maybe we should be spending $1800, and you can do mediation for that. We're talking about a philosophical problem where lawmakers are saying, a, you don't have the power to tell us. And B, even if you do, we get to decide what is adequate education. And then the plaintiff's side is saying, clearly these children are here. Many of these English learners are in fact the children of illegal immigrants. They're here illegally and they have to be educated. The longer we let this drag out, the more students, the more years go by of students not learning English.

>>Ted Simons:
The Supreme Court is the losing side?

>>Howard Fischer:
No matter what happens, they'll let you know how the restaurants are in Washington, DC.

>>Ted Simons:
Enhanced driver's license in the news. It sounds like the feds looked at Arizona and said, what? Okay?

>>Howard Fischer:
Essentially what happened, this is the first step toward real ID. Back in 2005, congress -- and this was an outgrowth of the whole 9/11 commission -- any moron with any sort of identification can get a driver's license in most states. From what I see on the road, many morons still have driver's licenses. What do you need to do? The first step is going to be what they call the western hemisphere travel initiative licenses. Up until now, if you're driving back from rocky point with a declaration and a state license that doesn't prove you're here legally. This would require citizenship, social security, better documentation, and it'll be more tamperproof. The next step is this real id kind of driver's license, which would serve as proof of employability, biometric identifiers, they could do a retinal scan, encode that on the card, so they can make sure you're the person who actually has it. There are a lot of people very paranoid about a national ID card, a national database.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Libertarians worry about who's going to have the data. It's not clear what data the feds are going to keep, what data the states are going to keep and how this is going to be tracked. Folks on both the left and right worry about infringements on their liberty.

>>Howard Fischer:
Let me go a step beyond. There are people who believe that all of our money is encoded and they can track where we go. Many of these cards will have radio frequency identifiers. An RFI. with a transponder, you know the person's unique RFI. you can track them. Talk about paranoia. If the government essentially has a GPS system on your wallet --

>>Casey Newton:
They can find it if you lose it.

>>Ted Simons:
Are lawmakers going to go along with this?

>>Howard Fischer:
I think there will be a lot of huffing and puffing but they will see it as fighting illegal immigration and allow the first phase to take place.

>>Ted Simons:
Another idea to fight illegal immigration is stopping the idea of birthright citizenship. There's a ballot initiative that wants to take away birthright citizenship. What do we know about the people behind this? Go for it, mike.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
It's the illegal immigration hawks that some of them want to stop this. They want to not have Arizona hospitals issue birth certificates to babies, newborns of undocumented immigrants. The only problem is the 14th amendment which says, if you're born here or naturalized here, you're a US. citizen and you're an American. They can take to it federal court because it's a federal issue. They could challenge the interpretation of that. A state can't go in and say we're not going to abide by the 14th amendment. If you're born here, you're an American.

>>Howard Fischer:
I understand the frustration over anchored babies. The 14th amendment doesn't specifically speak to born or loyalty to the country. But there was a court case that said, by virtue of birth, you are a citizen. Those are the anchor babies that keep the parents here. But you have to take it back to federal court. What will they do with it in 2008? I can't tell you. It might not even pass, but it's a meaningless exercise.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
The constitution is clear. You're born here, you're an American.

>>Ted Simons:
Let's talk about the summit this weekend, a lot of wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth. What do we see here?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
The expectation is for slower growth through the next year. Growth is going to be down. Obviously it's the housing market that continues to do this. Foreclosures are up, and President Bush and a lot of banks and the fed and the treasury department unveiled a plan to try to help folks with sub prime adjustable mortgages to avoid foreclosures. You can apply for a different loan and work with your lender for a separate loan. The question is the aim is obviously to cut foreclosures. The question is, I'm an investor from California, a came and bought a bunch of houses in Scottsdale and I've got these screwy sub prime mortgages. Should government and the rest of us be bailing them out when the rest of us are trying to pay our mortgages?

>>Howard Fischer:
Some of us, it'll be interesting to see, chapter and verse. A lot of these plans may only apply to people who occupy their own homes. The investors are out of luck, too bad.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
If you're a consumer and you did a bad load, or if you're a lender and you did a bad loan, isn't some responsibility on you for making a bad loan? People that are paying their mortgages and making them don't always get something out of it.

>>Ted Simons:
You're looking at this going, hey, what about me?

>>Howard Fischer:
The other fact is we're not talking about a government bailout here. It's a negotiated settlement. This is what Governor Schwarzenegger did in California. You negotiate with some lenders and say, look, if you've got people who are going to readjust in 2008, if they pay promptly, own their own homes, just freeze the rate. Like I say, this is not government coming in and paying their mortgage for them. The fear is that, as people lose their homes, it doesn't just affect them, but the entire neighborhood, brings down property values everywhere else. It also affects the state economy. If people are scared of losing their homes or jobs, they don't spend as much. Arizona's $10.6 billion budget, 46\% of tax revenues are sales taxes. Guess what happens when people stop buying, buy less or buy less expensive? The state's economy goes in the hole. Last week we talked about being 800 million in the hole, and now we're 970 million in the hole out of a $10.6 billion budget

>>Casey Sunnucks:
Our economy is slower, but we're not Michigan or Ohio. We're not bleeding jobs. We still have economic growth here. It's going to hit the budget, but we're not in the kind of dire straits you see back in the rust belt.

>>Ted Simons:
And we have light rail coming, and that will solve everything right Casey?

>>Casey Newton:
You'll be able to take the light rail from mesa to 19th and Dobson.

>>Ted Simons:
There was a test run along Washington?

>>Casey Newton:
That's right, Washington. They have what they call the test track. For the first time, instead of using police officers to control traffic, they actually just let the train go along and let people try to interpret the signals. If you are driving on Washington in the near future, please keep an eye out for any moving light-rail vehicles.

>>Howard Fischer:
If you get hit by one, it's going to ruin your day.

>>Ted Simons:
Quickly, 30 seconds: Mayor Gordon, with this move today, is he looking for something higher up? Is this going to help him at all?

>>Casey Newton:
Here's what I believe. I think the center of the immigration debate has moved to the right in the past two years. Gordon had to move with the center. He wants to get in alignment with the average voter in Arizona. Whether he wants another four years as mayor or the governor's office, he needs to be in line with the mainstream. That's what he's doing.

>>>Ted Simons:
Monday and Tuesday "Horizon" is off for special programming. Wednesday we talk with an escapee from Warren Jeffs' polygamist sect. Coming up, how does a democracy decide to wage war? That's next, on "now." I'm Ted Simons, have a great weekend.

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