Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 10, 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:
  • Mike Sunnucks - The Business Journal
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
>>Howard Fischer:
It's Friday, August 10, 2007. As the number of Hispanics grows in the state, another hotline has been set up in response to Sheriff Joe Arpaio's illegal immigrants hotline. Another business group has joined the fight against employer sanctions law. And can the state tell charter schools what to teach and when? That's next on Horizon.

>>Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>>Howard Fischer:
Good evening, I'm Howard Fischer and this is the Journalists Roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Mike Sunnucks of The Business Journal, Paul Giblin of The Scottsdale Republic and Doug Ramsey of KTAR Radio. Well, another group has joined the fight against the new employer sanctions law penalizing employers who hire illegal immigrants. Mike, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has decided to weigh in. What's their sudden interest in Arizona law?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah, we have 12 business groups on this lawsuit against this sanctions law that goes into effect in January. The U.S. Chamber is the biggest one that joined. You had the state chamber, the National Roofing Contractors Association and some other groups join. They argue a couple of things - that it violates due process, that immigration is a federal power, federal oversight and the state is stepping on the Fed's toes on this. The U.S. Chamber has been a big pusher of the McCain-Bush-Kennedy immigration reforms at the federal level. They favor guest worker program. They don't want to see these sanctions bills spreading around to other states. So they're stepping in here.

>>Howard Fischer:
I gather, Doug, and you talked to the vice president of the U.S. Chamber, they really are concerned that if they don't stomp this one down, all of a sudden other states will say, hey, this works in Arizona. Maybe we should have an employer sanctions bill.

>>Doug Ramsey:
Yeah, I think that's one of their concerns. Several states are considering this. Several localities, cities and counties are also considering these bills. A few have passed them already. I think Payson has already done it in Arizona. So they're very concerned about this spreading. I think if they can get a Supreme Court decision or two or three federal appeals court decisions right off the bat, that may sort of slow things down.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
The other states that have them, like Colorado, they would keep you from being a state contractor. So it's not as draconian as ours where you would get shut down. The courts threw out a Pennsylvania law in Hazelton the other day. So the business groups and folks opposed to these sanctions got some gusto from that.

>>Doug Ramsey:
The U.S. chamber was a party to that.

>>Paul Giblin:
Mike, have they talked about what approach they're going to take to fight these laws?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
It's basically the same thing that the state groups are doing - due process, federal-state powers, stepping on that. And really the question is, you know, they make the argument that it's going to put a lot of folks out of business. And that's a debatable point, obviously.

>>Howard Fischer:
One of the things I find interesting, Paul, is if you look at some of the other plaintiffs that have joined the lawsuit - you've got roofers, landscapers, fast food restaurants - I mean, at the risk of getting calls to Horizon, good thing is I'm not here when they call, this seems to be a who's who of people who hire low wage and perhaps illegal immigrant workers.

>>Paul Giblin:
Mm-hmm.

>>Howard Fischer:
So is this the ideal group to be fighting this? Or should there be maybe some others out there? I don't see Intel or Motorola.

>>Paul Giblin:
I was speaking to some of those very employers that you mention. They say they're at the
frontlines -- the people you mention, the roofers, the restaurant hirers. But they say they're getting money from other, bigger firms, computer firms, for instance. I was talking to a restaurateur. He said they have a lot of frontline people. But their computers are done, their registers are all computers. So if they go out of business and they lose dozens of restaurants and the computer companies supplying the cash registers, they will be hurt. It backs up to suppliers for these restaurants, suppliers for the roofers, everyone else, so there's a whole another wave of business that's putting money behind this effort even if they're not in front.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Their argument is they don't want the state being the immigration police. They don't want to have to police. They want the feds to do it. They obviously want a guest worker program. And a lot of the restaurateurs say it's the Hispanic folks who are applying for the jobs. So they do their best.

>>Howard Fischer:
That segues very nicely into what happened today. The Bush administration decided, well, Congress isn't going to act, so tell you what, I'm your president and I'll act unilaterally - this time we'll have a crackdown and this time I mean it.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
This president is acting unilaterally on something, that's amazing.

>>Howard Fischer:
Essentially, Mike, as I understand it, he says now we're really going to go out and crack down. What else is involved with what the Feds want to do here?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Well, they want them to have stiffer fines, have more enforcement and to go after the employers a little harder. That hasn't been done in over a decade. It kind of started under the Clinton administration and Bush has continued that. They don't go into restaurants or construction work sites and check folks. They've tried to focus more on the border. They're going to try to put more stuff on the border even though they'll draw down some of the National Guard troops. They put in some more infrastructure down there. They built a little bit more of the wall, even though not enough for the Russell Pearces and other hard liners. But they say trust us. We're going to do it. And this is what the business folks want. They want the Feds to do it, they don't want the states to do it.

>>Paul Giblin:
Interestingly, the legislation that failed earlier in the year included some provisions that would make some of that interior enforcement easier to do. For instance, a national database that they say is more reliable than the one that's in place now. That was intended to help this kind of crackdown. So I don't know how they're going to do this crackdown without getting that other part in place first.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
They want access to some of the states' driver's license records to be able to check that.

>>Howard Fischer:
And that's a fascinating one, because, Doug, the governor said today the first time she heard about it, of course, was when she read about it in the paper like the rest of us. She's not exactly sure that Arizona is in the position legally or even technically to share this kind of a thing.

>>Doug Ramsey:
She's pretty upset about the fact that the Feds never contacted her or any other state about whether they would be able to first get permission to do this, second whether the computers are going to be able to talk to each other so they can import that data from the state database over to the Department of Homeland Security. And then who's going to pay for this? She's pretty upset.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
One thing that kind of cuts across all this is, a lot of illegals and a lot of the folks hiring them are an underground economy, a cash economy. They're not going to participate in some of this stuff, not going to participate in the guest worker program, they're not going to do the I-9 checks or the national I.D. card. They're not going to do this. So the way to go after that is either to try to legalize as many folks as possible to work here temporarily or to do more enforcement. Because the landscapers and the contractors, a lot of those guys are black market guys. They're paying them under the table and they're not going to participate in any program.

>>Howard Fischer:
So does it take the I.N.S. driving up in those green trucks to meat packing plants, to agricultural places to do the raids that we used to hear about in the 50's, to really get that underground economy?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
The problem there is, I think, a lot of folks don't have a problem with the folks coming here to work. A lot of the folks that are trekking through the desert in horrible conditions make a pittance of money in Mexico. People down there make less than $5 a day a lot of them. They come across and they want to work. I think people have problems with the people that hire them, the people that are exploiting them, that are depressing wages, that are not giving them benefits, not treating them very well sometimes. I think that's where the business folks in these lawsuits have a blind spot is they're not the right vehicle to be pushing for immigration reform sometimes.

>>Paul Giblin:
The business people pushing these lawsuits, they're not opposed to the government cracking down on these illegal hirers, these illegal employers, the ones you mentioned. They're supportive of that effort. I think we saw a year or two ago when they busted a great big pallete-making factory on the west side here and we've seen that in other states as well.

>>Doug Ramsey:
They want consistent rules from state to state. I think that's their biggest point.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
The underlying thing with business folks is, the general public thinks the business folks are in this for the cheap labor, and it's kind of a wink and a nod. This person gives you a fake I. D. Well, okay, it looks okay. So the business folks, I don't think they have a lot of credibility on these issues.

>>Howard Fischer:
That raises an interesting question. Some new figures, Paul, this week from the census bureau show that Maricopa County added more Hispanics than any other county in the nation. Seventy one thousand in one year, 366,000 in the decade. You look at the figures, some of it is birth rate. But it also suggests that despite everyone saying we're not hiring illegals, apparently you continue to have more migrant workers, legal and otherwise.



>>Paul Giblin:
Sure, exactly what you said. More than the birth rate, 1.1 million Hispanics live in the county now. That has to be and only can be from illegals coming here as well as the birth rate of those who are living here legally already.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
We continue to be kind of a clearing house. They come across to our desert, come to Phoenix and then spread across the country where they go to Las Vegas or Chicago. Some of them stay here, see there's jobs, they can work here. Gee, if I've trekked all that time and see I can have a chance to get a job and settle down, why not.

>>Paul Giblin:
There's also the risk that if you go further from Phoenix, then you're running the risk of getting apprehended somewhere along the line. So if you're here, you're safe, why not stay here.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
It does play into our depressed wages. Our wages are lower generally than other major markets, I think we're below the national average. And these folks have a reputation for working hard and a lot of people like to hire ‘em but they also work for less and often for no benefits.

>>Howard Fischer:
You bring up something we were going to talk about a little bit later but let's get into that. The new figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis suggest that while wages in Arizona are increasing, we still lag the rest of the country. How much of that is having a labor force here, an illegal labor force, that tends to keep the wages down?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
About 93 percent of the average and less in Tucson, Yuma is down even farther. It's part of that - construction, hospitality, agriculture - can all hire folks that are undocumented and they work for less. That brings everyone's wages down.

>>Doug Ramsey:
Let me point out though, when I came to Arizona in the 1970's, the state was also lagging behind the national average. That was before this huge wave of immigration happened. So I don't think it's that much --

>>Mike Sunnucks:
We still have the farm workers. We've always had the low wage sectors. We're not Connecticut or Massachusetts with 60-70 percent college graduates and we don't have high wage sectors - retail, tourism.

>>Paul Giblin:
We don't have a lot of manufacturing jobs and a lot of jobs you would think would have unions, which tend to work up wages as well.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Right to work state plays into that too.

>>Howard Fischer:
One of the other things that happened dealing with immigration is Sheriff Joe, who last week set up a hotline, decided this week, if you're an illegal immigrant and have a relative in jail, don't bother coming down here because you could end up sharing a cell. Tell me what he has in mind.

>>Doug Ramsey:
Well, the sheriff is saying if you're an illegal immigrant and you want to come down and visit somebody that's in the jail, we're not going to allow that anymore. I think it starts next week, he'll start enforcing that. He says you will be arrested. It's one more step in his campaign to be, as he says, the only law enforcement official that is actually enforcing immigration laws.

>>Howard Fischer:
That also leads to what else happened. I gather originally there was going to be a hotline set up by Hispanic groups to keep track of the other people who were calling Sheriff Joe's hotline to check for racial profiling. But I gather, Doug, there's now four of them?

>>Doug Ramsey:
There are going to be four hotlines activated on Monday. These are run by various Hispanic activist groups around the valley and around the state. And they're looking for instances of racial profiling. They'll have a bunch of volunteer lawyers standing by to review whatever complaints come in. And then if they think the complaints are valid, they'll send them on to the U.S. Attorney's office. I gather there's some problem with the attorney general, that he's not the right person to go to on this because he doesn't have the authority to enforce that. But the U.S. attorney does.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
They also said they could take civil action against Arpaio. They could sue his office and file lawsuits against that. Arpaio obviously wants to get on Fox News and these conservative Web sites a lot and be America's toughest sheriff. But people need to point out his enforcement of these smuggling laws. You have people being smuggled across the border in some God-forsaken van and spending all this time and paying the coyotes thousands of dollars with no guarantee of anything. Then we have our sheriff who adds upon that by prosecuting them for smuggling themselves. I think that's something they should point out.

>>Howard Fischer:
Let's talk about something on the other end of the financial scale. From low wage to $100 million incentives. Doug, Phoenix had offered City North a $100 million for a mixed-use retail project to locate it on the Phoenix side of the street versus the Scottsdale side. Now the Goldwater Institute says maybe not so legal?

>>Doug Ramsey:
They point to three different places in the state constitution that say that's illegal to do something like that. There's a gift clause, special treatment of retailers, certain things like that. They've filed suit and they're challenging the city's transfer of this $100 million. It's interesting that what the city is getting for its money is parking spaces. The Goldwater Institute says, well, come on, a retail development that doesn't have parking spaces so people can come and spend their money? That's ridiculous.

>>Howard Fischer:
One hundred million dollars for 3,000 parking spaces? Like New York prices, I guess.

>>Doug Ramsey:
It's a heck of a deal. Twelve times the going rate.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
I think you'll see Cheuvrant and folks at the legislature kind of go after some of the property tax deals also. They've already restricted the sales tax. City governments give out a lot of property tax deals where the city will own the land and then lease it back to a company or a developer and then they pay a lower rate. So I think you'll see them go after that. It just smacks of corporate welfare to a lot of folks.

>>Doug Ramsey:
Cheuvrant is one of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit along with the Goldwater Institute. He got a law through the legislature which discourages these kinds of deals but doesn't prohibit them. The way it discourages these deals is it says, if a city gives money to a developer, we'll withhold that amount out of your city sales tax revenues. Well, the Goldwater Institute says taxpayers could be hit twice this way. The city may go ahead with the deal, they lose the tax money that way and then they also lose the money they get from the state legislature. So it could be a double whammy for taxpayers.

>>Howard Fischer:
Paul, this has been a sore point between Scottsdale and Phoenix now almost for as long as I've lived in the Valley. They both seem to be competing for this. Are incentives a legitimate way of attracting business or is it just transferring money from one pocket to another?

>>Paul Giblin:
Well, yes and no. Yes, you can attract a business by giving incentives, of course you can, anyone would do it for cheaper, but do you need to? If the demographics are there where they'll be able to sell their products, put people in this shopping center, why wouldn't the developer just do it on his own? They don't really need an incentive but they're happy to take it. You see this all over the place. Look at what happened a little further south in Scottsdale, with SkySong, this high tech thing the city rolled over like a dog and threw a lot of money at A.S.U. to put this information technology center up there. And they promised I.M Pei, who's this world-renowned architect, was going to do something great. Then they chopped that back and now they're just putting up these Moscow-looking buildings and they get a Canon copier system which was located in Phoenix to jump over to Scottsdale. You see it happen with the auto dealerships in the southern edge of Scottsdale and they're threatening about taking incentives from other cities in Tempe or Mesa or elsewhere. It's been happening for years and years in the Valley and it's really quite foolish.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
I think it's a problem with the types of businesses. If you're going to attract a Toyota or a Nissan plant like they did down south, that's a lot of jobs and suppliers, a lot of supply chain companies and they have a big economic impact. What we are doing here is we're giving sales tax incentives to retailers and car dealerships and developers. That's not really having the economic impact that a manufacturing plant, like an Intel has, where you have 10,000 employees, a lot of good jobs.

>>Doug Ramsey:
A lot of high-paid jobs too.

>>Paul Giblin:
When Intel comes here, it isn't shopping between cities, it's shopping between, say metro Phoenix and metro Austin and metro where have you. That's where they're shopping. In that case it makes sense to get everyone on board to put together an incentive to package to get to Phoenix rather than going to North Carolina. When I say Phoenix, I mean Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, whatever. That makes sense. But fighting between cities is foolish.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
There could be a regional approach. They could cap it or something where it would be something reasonable.

>>Paul Giblin:
Or just eliminate it. If you have no incentive it's all even anyway.

>>Howard Fischer:
Mike, the Goldwater Institute has been in the news twice this week. I gather they went to Superior Court on behalf of the charter schools who say, well, we're public schools but we get to do what we want, we get to teach courses when we want. The judge in the preliminary injunction said no, you have to obey certain rules in terms of teaching.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
The judge agreed with the state that these charter schools have to follow certain guidelines in their curriculum. The Goldwater Institute and the charter schools said hey, these schools are successful. We want some flexibility. There's probably some middle ground here. They get public money, they're public schools, so they've got to go by public guidelines, that makes sense. I think the state should look at what schools are successful and what's being taught successfully and say maybe there's some latitude there. I think it's someplace in the middle. But I think the judge's ruling kind of matches up with the law. They get public money, they're not private schools. So they've got to play by public rules.

>>Howard Fischer:
Other things going on, Doug. The state board of education met this afternoon and said, you want to get out of high school, you want that diploma? Right now you need two years of math. Pretty soon it's going to be three and then four years. So as a bunch of journalists who can't add and subtract, is four years of math necessary? Or is this just a bunch of do-gooders out here?

>>Doug Ramsey:
I think four years of math is necessary in certain careers. And with the emphasis on technology these days, I think a lot of jobs you should have four years of math. But not everyone should have four years of math. That's part of the argument. Superintendent Tom Horne is holding out for an exception for people who really can't handle four years of math, specifically Algebra II, and would be able to graduate for three years of math. They'd still have to pass the AIMS test but they could graduate with three math credits.

>>Howard Fischer:
There was an interesting question from the business community. Somebody from Intel was at the hearing today and said, we cannot find engineers graduating from U.S. colleges. The fact is we're going overseas and we're not getting engineers out of the colleges because they're not taking the math and science in high school. If we don't have more math, are we shipping our jobs overseas?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Absolutely. That's what the big corporate folks argue. That's what Napolitano argued is we need more math and science education for these jobs. The question is how we approach everything in general. Some folks aren't going to be an engineer. So maybe we need to look at more of like a European model where they do more technical education and apprenticeships for the folks that maybe aren't going to go to college. I think a lot of folks, business folks, think that our education system has gone too much towards liberal arts and this kind of holistic view. We probably need more technical education and more math and science.

>>Doug Ramsey:
A very practical problem with going to four years of math, the state is already short about 60 math teachers every year. And it's estimated if we go to four years of math in high school, they'll need 600 more on top of that. They can't even fill the jobs they have now. So that's going to take some money from the legislature, probably, for incentives.

>>Paul Giblin:
Is there any counter thought about what this would do for dropout rates?


>>Mike Sunnucks:
They argue that whenever this comes up, they worry that it will push more and more kids out of school. I think that's where you have to -- we have a lot of, a lot of migrant kids, a lot of kids whose parents haven't gone to college. To expect them to take calculus would be a challenge. So maybe we need to have more technical things so they can learn some crafts as well as maybe having that opportunity to go to college.

>>Paul Giblin:
That's a difficult question. Are you better off requiring four years and knowing you'll have a higher dropout rate or going with fewer years and is it better two years rather than the kid drop out and not graduate at all? I don't know.

>>Doug Ramsey:
Do you dumb it down for everybody, or do you give certain kids the challenge they need?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
Also it will cut into electives, which has been brought up. Music, P.E., drama.

>>Howard Fischer:
The question is, Paul, we're living along the border here. You can get out of high school without knowing any language other than English and maybe coming out of high school not even English. Should we require people living in the southwest to learn Spanish, something?

>>Paul Giblin:
You know, Howie, earlier we were talking about the increase in the number of Hispanics. That's 30 percent of the county's population now is Hispanic, a large number of them I'd say are speaking Spanish. It seems to me that foreign language might not be a bad idea.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
If you work at a construction site, restaurant, any of these sectors, you pretty much need to speak Spanish.

>>Doug Ramsey:
Any place where you have contact with the public.

>>Paul Giblin:
You don't even need to work at those places. If you hire a contractor or if you want to go to a restaurant, in a lot of cases you'd better know Spanish as well.

>>Mike Sunnucks:
The thing is, back to the Europeans, I hate to use them as an example so much, but they do focus on language early on. Not in high school but in elementary school where the kids' minds are able to learn that. So I think early on we need to teach more math and science and more foreign languages.

>>Doug Ramsey:
Why is it that most of the Europeans you meet in your life speak English? We don't speak their languages.

>>Howard Fischer:
Well, of course, it's probably Sheriff Joe has an answer for that because they ought to speak American the way he does. But it comes back to the question, I appreciate the need for more math, but how often do you need to figure out if a train leaves New York at
3 o'clock and another one leaves Chicago at 4 o'clock, where do they meet and what color underwear was the engineer wearing? Are these the kinds of questions you come across working at The Business Journal?

>>Mike Sunnucks:
As someone who did very poorly at math, I'm happy I won't have to take four years of math. But I think we need more practical education. You see other countries train their students to be in the workforce, whether it's an engineer or a mechanic or something else. Whereas we're trying to get everybody ready for Dartmouth.

>>Paul Giblin:
I don't even know what all the buttons on the calculators mean, okay? So I'm not even touching that topic.

>>Howard Fischer:
Basically next time we do the census analysis don't even come to you with that question? Fair enough. Mike, Doug, Paul, great discussion.

Monday and Tuesday Horizon will be pre-empted for some special programming. Wednesday, a Horizon education special takes a look at several issues facing Arizona's students and schools beyond all of what we talked about tonight. Thursday, Congressman Harry Mitchell will join us to talk about his first six months in Washington. Friday, we'll be back here with another edition of The Journalists Roundtable.

Coming up next on Now, who's paying the price of America's income inequality? That's next on Now. After that, Bill Moyers's Journal. Then at 1 o'clock, if you stay tuned, Abba will be on and you can get to sing along with Dancing Queen. Have an incredible weekend. For Horizon, this is Howard Fischer.

Content Partner: