Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 18, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Congressman Jeff Flake


  • A conversation about immigration reform and other topics with Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake
Guests:
  • Jeff Flake - Arizona Congressman
Category: Government

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
He is the go-to guy in Congress when it comes to fighting pork barrel spending. Jeff Flake also gets his hands into other issues like immigration reform and the economy. Joining us now is Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

Jeff Flake:
Thanks for having me on.

Ted Simons:
Let's get started with the big issue because everyone wants to talk about this. I want to get your take on this because I think you have some interesting points. I need to hear these things. SB 1070 in general. Your thoughts.

Jeff Flake:
Well, far be it from any Federal elected official to criticize the state for trying to fix what the Federal government has failed to do. So I won't be critical at all of what the legislature has done. We have dug this hole ourselves at the Federal level and so I don't game anybody for trying to fix it. Having said that, I had some issues with the initial 1070 in terms of its constitutionality. They went in and fixed the most egregious parts of that. And that was good. It was good to amend that. Since then I haven't had an issue so much with the constitutionality as with the focus of it. I think we need to certainly focus as the Federal government I'm speaking of now, broadly and I wish somebody would come up with a name for comprehensive reform that it needs to be more comprehensive than just a focus on enforcement here or border security here. It has to be other things as well. And that's what I have always believed and I still believe that.

Ted Simons:
And I want to get to some of those other things in a second here but do you think that this law, even from where you sit as a Federal representative, do you think this is good for Arizona?

Jeff Flake:
I think it was a mistake for the Obama administration to sue. I think it should have been allowed to go in as it stood. Like I said it mostly just restates Federal law. But what we would quickly find, if it were implemented, is that that's only one part of the problem. The biggest problem we have is once somebody is discovered to be here illegally, what happens to them then? If they're pulled off the street, and there's a presumption that they are illegal, they are given a court date six months hence and it's renewed for another six months and they are given a court date four or five years down the road. And during that time, they are then in the process, and they become a legal person here with the ability as I understand it to get a social security number and then a driver's license. That is the biggest amnesty of all. And so the notion that we have fixed it simply by rounding up more people who then go into a system that really needs help strikes me as only part of the solution. We need to do a lot more. And so for those who say we can fix this problem simply by focusing on the border and by focusing on interior enforcement, we can't. We need to do more than that.




Ted Simons:
I wanted to get again back to those ideas. But as far as the justice department lawsuit, and the judge's concerns regarding preemption and that was a biggest issue in terms of blocking parts of SB 1070, your thoughts on mirroring Federal law. It sounds like in some cases, she says no.

Jeff Flake:
Well, it looks to me, and I am not a lawyer, but it looks to me like it's just restating Federal law. So my question, again, isn't on the constitutionality of it. It's does all this focus actually do much? And I am not faulting those at the state level. Doing the best that they can because we are where the problem is, at the Federal level. But we need reform, like I said, call it something other than comprehensive, if you wish, but that focuses on the border, on interior enforcement but also some mechanism to deal with those who are here illegally that will get to that population faster than the literal decades it would take under our current law. And then some kind of temporary worker plan moving ahead. So it needs to be more broad than our current focus. But like I said, the State is limited on what they can do. I mean labor law is generally managed by the Federal government. The border is exclusively the Federal government. And so I think the state is doing the best it can to manage what it can manage and the problem is the Federal government is just slow to move. Having said that, I think that the Federal government is moving faster now because of Arizona's law, and I hope that that continues to be the case. There's no way that we would have got the $600 million more for border security were it not for Arizona moving ahead.

Ted Simons:
Arizona, I should say, that the country seems to be interested in this idea back during the Bush presidency and the Bush administration. There was some movement. There was some concern over the comprehensive aspect of immigration control and reform.

Jeff Flake:
Right.

Ted Simons:
What happened?


Jeff Flake:
Well, it just, it's a political football. It always is. You have some groups saying that anything other than enforcing the current law is amnesty. I don't believe that. I believe that amnesty is what question in 1986 where we said if you have been here for five years and you can prove it, you have got a short cut to a green card and then ultimately citizenship if you want it. And allowed those people to cut in front of others. That's amnesty. But there are other ways to deal with the illegal population here that isn't an amnesty and I think that's what we ought to pursue.

Ted Simons:
You have mentioned you do want increased security at the border.

Jeff Flake:
You bet.

Ted Simons:
How much is enough?

Jeff Flake:
Certainly we'll go a lot further before we reach that point. I mean, obviously, we need more fencing where it makes sense. We need other barriers where it makes sense. We need more officers. We need more law officers to adjudicate the cases. We need a lot more of just about everything. We need more surveillance, more resources, more communications equipment. But what I have a problem with is those who say let's fix the border and then do everything else knowing that doing those things on the border at best is going to take years to secure the border, and in the meantime, we have to realize that nearly, well, between 42 and 45% of those who are here illegally now didn't sneak across the border. They came legally and have overstayed and I think it behooves is to also think of those issues as well while we focus on the border and not just say we are going to focus on the border and then everything else.

Ted Simons:
As far as border security is concerned, critics will say that the crime in border towns is down or flat at worst, at worse, I should say. Crime in the major cities seems to be what flat. There doesn't seem to be a criminal, especially violent criminal -- obviously in Mexico serious problems down there. But here, they are not seeing those kinds of numbers so why the emphasis on increased security?

Jeff Flake:
Well, I think in a post-9/11 world we have to worry about things we didn't worry with before. And certainly I feel we ought to have a good robust temporary worker program where we could then focus on drugs and thugs instead of trying to focus on everyone who is coming here just to work. If we had a legal framework for them to come and work and return home, then, we could focus more on those who would do us harm. I think you would be hard-pressed in the border communities to get agreement that crime, of the type they worry about, some of this gang-oriented crime and cartel-oriented crime, is down because the kind of the focus has shifted toward drug and human smuggling and things we didn't face a decade ago.

Ted Simons:
The idea of a temporary worker program, how do you implement such a thing?

Jeff Flake:
Well, I have a plan. It was introduced and it had a temporary worker program in it. The effort that Senator McCain and others had in the Senate had a temporary program, worker program in it. The problem now is the only immigration reform that's been introduced by the Democrats in Congress doesn't have that element because the unions don't want it. And so they have felt, we have a big majority in the House, big majority in the Senate, we can pass what we wanted without working with the Republicans. And so what they have introduced really isn't comprehensive at all. It's just slivers of what needs to be done.

Ted Simons:
So there's no chance of getting a temporary worker program as the Congress is constituted right now?

Jeff Flake:
Well, we only have nine legislative days before the election. So certainly not this year.

Ted Simons:
You got a lame duck, though, coming up.

Jeff Flake:
Well, you always worry. And we have always, done things I never thought we would do in a year. So I wouldn't say that that's not a concern, but it's more difficult to move substantive legislation in a lame duck session than people think.

Ted Simons:
We got estimates are anywhere from 10 to 12 million folks here in this country without proper authorization, documentation. What do you do with those people?

Jeff Flake:
Well, I think you need to encourage them to come out of the shadows and like I said, right now the situation is such where if you are going to offer them due process, which we believe under our constitution they deserve, that's a process that will literally take decades to bring them out, adjudicate these cases and then you are faced with the thornier issue of what do you do with situations where a child is a citizen, the parent is not, or a spouse is a legal permanent resident, the other is not? It's a difficult problem to solve. But there are ways to do it, I think, ways where you can say, you come forward, and with the Stribak introduced if you want to adjust your status and wish to stay legally, here right steps. First pay back taxes. Second a fine. Third, you can go back to your home country and register and then you learn English and then there are steps along the way. Then they couldn't adjust their status until everybody who is going through the legally orderly process in their home country has moved through the process. So they are not cutting in line. And some will still say that's an amnesty but I don't believe so. And I think it's a responsible way to deal with the population that's currently here.

Ted Simons:
You mention some would say that's amnesty. Others would say that's not realist I can. How do we convince someone to go back across the border and when they know they can make it across in a variety of ways now.


Jeff Flake:
You have to combine it with real work site enforcement, a biometric card that identifies workers. That opens up another can of worms because some people think they ought to have it but not me. And how do you do that? So it's a thorny issue, no doubt but it has to be combined. That's why it has to be comprehensive. And anything short of that I don't think is going to solve the problem very quickly.

Ted Simons:
You have some things we have discussed right now, some folks would find rather conservative way to look at things but other folks within your own Republican party are listening right now, perhaps have listened to what you said before and said, this guy is way too liberal for me. Jeff Flake, way too liberal. What's going on here with this guy?

Jeff Flake:
When I am able to talk to people and explain what happens with the illegal population here now and what our plan would do, there aren't many who come away with that same opinion. So at first stroke, about the difficulty of a campaign. It's easy to just say, seal the border and enforce the law. What does that really mean? What does that entail? And when you are able to explain it they are all right. And I think for those who don't agree with my position, who think that it ought to be something different, at least I think they give me a little credit for sticking with my position. Because I have always believed this is what we need and I continue to believe regardless of the political environment.

Ted Simons:
Democrats are saying that the immigration issue, in general, is a wedge issue used by Republicans to stir folks up and politico size the entire issue. How do you respond?

Jeff Flake:
Well, if that is the case it's being used by both sides because the other side has used it that way as well. That's the real difficulty in coming up with a solution. Both sides I believe think that they can reasonably use this for a political advantage. Maybe Republicans more short-term political advantage, Democrats more long-term political advantage. But there the end, I think we are all going to have to sit down and say, let's solve the problem.


Ted Simons:
Can that only be solved after the election?

Jeff Flake:
Yes, I think so. It's tough enough in an election year. I'm sorry. In an odd year. In an even year it's virtually impossible.

Ted Simons:
I want to talk about extending tax cuts for the wealthy. This is being debated quite a bit on Capitol Hill. What are your thoughts here?

Jeff Flake:
We ought to extend the tax cuts. I would just argue that the premise may be wrong here. Those upper 2% are largely small businesses that register sub S corporations. So if you say we are going to get rid of the -- repeal the tax cuts for the wealthy, what you are really doing are going after those that really create jobs and create wealth in this country. And that's not a good thing particularly when you are in a recession.

Ted Simons:
Joint committee on taxation, though, says it's extending would cost, what, $238 billion. Adds $36 billion to do deficit. If the Democrats and the Obama administration, if they have their way, you have got like a 200,000, $250,000 for families. You do that, all of a sudden you have got, you have got the budget looking a lot better and the deficits looking a lot better. Does that not make sense?

Jeff Flake:
That assumes that the economy keeps clipping along or improves. And unless you have some kind of certainty moving ahead, the tax structure and regulatory environment, you are not going to have a growing economy. And so I would again argue with the premise there. And also argue with the premise that tax cuts should be treated the same as all government spending. I mean, that assumes that everything is the government's even that's that's left in your pocket. Because the government can take it tomorrow. It shouldn't be treated the same way. We need to rein in spending but that doesn't mean that we should take more out of taxpayers' pockets and off the pockets of small business in particular that will create the jobs we need.

Ted Simons:
So when David Stockman, Republican, back in the Reagan administration and Bush administration and Alan Greenspan both say don't extend these things, don't do it now, you say --

Jeff Flake:
Extend them. Particularly during a recession. And you have a lot of economists even in the center left who are saying, now, not now, don't do that now. So we have this same people who say all tax cuts are the same as well. They are not. When you have marginal rate cuts, capital gains cuts and whatever those are estimate what active of the economy. Those sometimes generate more revenue in economic activity than they actually take. But the last thing you want to do during a recession is raise taxes.

Ted Simons:
My last question on this. I can hear critics right now saying we have had all these tax cuts throughout the Bush administration, we had them leading up to now and our economy is not doing very well. Where's the disconnect?

Jeff Flake:
We are not undertaxed. We are spending too much. We doesn't have a taxings or revenue problem. We have a spending problem and that was true under Republicans and it's true under Democrats. Let me just say, we were headed toward this fiscal cliff long before Obama took the wheel. He's just stepped on the accelerator a bit. We need to change things and Republicans spent far too much and Democrats are spending even more.

Ted Simons:
Last question before you go, I know Mesa's in the running for a presidential helicopter bid with a project with Boeing. It sounds like the mayor of Mesa wants our Congressional delegation to get together. What do you think about this idea?
Jeff Flake:
We will look at the proposal and see. There was a proposal out there, the president said we don't need that proposal. I think he was wise to do so, spending billions right now on a new fleet of helicopters for the president. Probably isn't at the top of anybody's priority list.

Ted Simons:
So when these valley leaders say this could help with jobs and stuff --

Jeff Flake:
We will look at the proposal and see. To blindly say we should support this when we haven't seen the proposal would be irresponsible for anybody.

Ted Simons:
Congressman, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Jeff Flake:
Thank you.

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