How many years have we been discussing illegal immigration reform? It seems like it has been headline news for the last 10 years. It has been discussed from the local level to the U.S. House, Senate and White House, yet only now has any serious written effort at reform been made.
The Gang of Eight is comprised of four Republican and four Democrat senators. They are Senators Schumer (D) Menendez (D), Bennet (D), Durbin (D), Rubio (R), Graham (R), McCain (R), and Flake (R). They’ve been working hard to craft a reform package that is fair, workable and can get passed through the Democrat Senate and the Republican House. This is troubled water to navigate. Past ideas have ranged from “string ‘em up” to “open the border and let everyone in.” Finding a legal middle ground among these strong, seasoned and opinionated senators hasn’t been easy, but Arizona is fortunate to have been more than fairly represented. To have the combined knowledge of both our senators means that there are two voices who can tell the story of how badly a solution needs to be found for the illegal immigration problem.
Both Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake have been on our southern border countless times. They’ve seen how easy (and foolish) it is to cross on foot, by vehicle, or by air. They’ve seen the destruction to property, farm animals and the ecology to say nothing of lives lost and border security personnel killed. They’ve toured other areas of the state, where they’ve heard the frustrations of employers who want to hire, yet are deterred by the system to verify legal status is faulty. They’ve spoken with leaders of the tech industry, who face countless obstacles in hiring our world’s best and brightest, only to see them persistently deal with our country’s outdated visa rules and regulations. They’ve met with immigration protesters and immigration proponents. They live in the atmosphere most affected by the laws they are tasked to write.
There is a component of constituents who cannot lay down the cudgel of AMNESTY. They declare that our two senators are planning to give every illegal immigrant in this country legal status on day one and begin providing benefits in every category. That simply is not factual. The amnesty word is used as a sword to cut every answer to this lingering problem into shreds. We have to regulate immigration through the visa system and by closing the door at the border. We have to offer an opportunity for those who have breached our immigration law to get on the right side and for those who are here legally and contributing to our economy to have the chance to stay here.
A new survey by the National Association for the Self-Employed found that more than three-quarters of small business owners support comprehensive immigration reform. These are owners of manufacturing businesses, retail stores, and technology firms. They are, in fact, the drivers of our economy. Furthermore, they are the very people that every politician preaches about helping while on the campaign trail. It’s refreshing that our Arizona senators do more than just talk the talk. They are walking the walk.
Until the Gang of Eight started this process, all we heard from our elected officials were loud proclamations from both sides of the argument, while nothing was being done. That is because it took tremendous amounts of courage to make a plan and lay it out for the public to see and criticize. Arizona has two courageous senators who have the will, the background and stomach to take on this emotion-laden issue. They know how to take heat and still keep their heads. We may not agree with everything that is proposed, but at minimum we should respect that our two senators have the guts to try
• Rick Murray is CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association.