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Brewer skeptical of immigration reform by McCain

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PHOENIX -- Gov. Jan Brewer said Monday she needs to be convinced that the bipartisan plan of U.S. senators for immigration reform will have real teeth.

Brewer, in a prepared statement, said she is glad the plan unveiled Monday in Washington includes a focus on border security. But the governor said that was promised before, in 1986, when President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that was supposed to provide comprehensive immigration reform.

At that time, an estimated 3 million illegal immigrants gained legal status. Now there are 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, including about 400,000 in Arizona.

"`The promise of border security was broken and Americans, especially in border states like mine, have been paying the price ever since," she said in a prepared statement. "We must not -- and will not -- let that happen again."

Republicans in the Arizona Legislature gave generally negative reviews of the proposal unveiled by Arizona Sen. John McCain and others.

"They need to come down here and see what's really going on here on the border," said House Majority Leader David Gowan. "We need to get people down here to see what's happening to our ranchers."

And Gowan said he is not swayed by the fact that one of those involved in the plan is McCain.

"I think he's making a little bit of a mistake on that," he said.

State Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said the proposal is out of step with what Arizonans have said repeatedly they want by virtue by approving several measure aimed at illegal immigration approved at the ballot box.

"We've passed laws in the Legislature which reflects the community thoughts on the matter as well that still are popular," he continued. "So if they do anything inconsistent with those referrals and the laws we've passed in Arizona, then I would be sorely disappointed."

But House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, said the senators are on the right track on at least one point unpopular with some Republican colleagues: Providing some legal status the illegal immigrants already here.

"We're not going to be sending all these people home," he said.

Tobin said the key is getting people to come forward and register.

"We might find out who they are, which could be very beneficial," he said.

And Tobin said that, if nothing else, eliminating the goal of finding all 11 million illegal immigrants would allow law enforcement to concentrate on the most important things.

That puts Tobin in the same camp as McCain, who said that having 11 million people outside the system has created a "de facto amnesty."

Added McCain: "We have been too content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawns, serve our food, clean our homes and even watch our children while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great. I think everyone agrees that it's not beneficial for our country to have these people here hidden in the shadows."

But that doesn't mean Tobin is ready to agree to the entire concept.

"`I think the question is this a pathway to citizenship," he said.

The plan envisions that all those already here illegally would be immediately eligible for legal status the day the bill is signed, including the ability to work in this country legally.

But getting a "green card" to make them a permanent legal immigrant -- the first step toward citizenship -- would have to wait until other things were accomplished. That includes some yet-to-be-defined standards for securing the border.

Brewer said she is "committed to do everything within my power to make certain our federal government finally upholds its obligation to secure America's borders."

McCain conceded border security is "not perfect." But he said there has been great progress, saying apprehensions of illegal immigrants have dropped by 70 percent in the last seven years.

But that question of determining when the border is "secure" -- and there can be a path to citizenship -- drew different concerns from state Senate Minority Leader Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson. She noted that decision would be made by a panel of experts that would include governors.

"The selection of governors that could sit on this panel, I think, can actually hold up the process in them feeling, in their opinion, that the border is never going to be secure," Tovar said.

"It does put some barriers for our families," she continued. "It's not a true pathway to citizenship."

Tovar said she's hopeful that the proposal by the president, to be sketched out today at a speech in Las Vegas, "offers a more straight approach" on how those here illegally eventually can become citizens.

Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix, said he shares Brewer's concern that the promise of a secure border won't be heeded.

"We heard that in 1986," he said. "`I think the people need a good-faith gesture the federal government is serious about protecting our nation," he said. "And after that we can have an intelligent discussion about amnesty."


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