WASHINGTON – Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano urged President Bush and Congress Tuesday to enact immigration reform to address a broken system that has depleted her state's resources and left its border insecure.
Speaking to reporters at the National Press Club,Napolitano criticized current plans to solve the problem,such as building a wall along the border with Mexico. She laid out her own proposals to limit the number of immigrants illegally coming into the United States.
“I'd like to bring these people out of the shadows,” she said. “As long as we have this toxic debate,we hamper our efforts.”
The governor said Arizona taxpayers have paid an estimated $300 million for issues related to illegal immigration,including overrun emergency rooms and jails.
“For what hardworking Arizonans are absorbing in these costs alone,we could pay for all-day kindergarten for every 5-year-old in the state,” she said.
The multi-point plan that she wants the president and Congress to consider focuses on using new technology and techniques to prevent the flow over the border.
Instead of adding additional National Guard Troops,which the governor has done in the past,she suggested using ground-based sensors,radar and unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol the 376-mile border.
She would also like a “streamlined visa process” and a temporary worker program,without amnesty for those already here. That would allow a free flow of legal immigrants and stop dangerous human smuggling.
Local authorities suspect that human smuggling might be responsible for four kidnappings of illegal immigrants in the state. Heavily armed men captured the immigrants along the border and in cars throughout the state. No arrests have been made,and witnesses remain in custody because of their immigration status.
Napolitano didn't mention the kidnappings in her speech,but she said her plan would help solve the overall problem of illegal immigration.
These changes would generate real change and provide an alternative to the “bumper sticker” phrases that suggest sealing the border and deporting millions of people,she said.
“Eleven million people. That would be like asking everyone who lives in New York City and Los Angeles to get up and move. It's a joke,” she said.
She said she didn't know what her plan would cost.
The governor's speech came after the four-day winter meeting of the National Governors Association,which she chairs.
During the conference,Napolitano introduced Innovation America,a proposal to improve education and business innovation models,and signed the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative.
She and the governors of California,New Mexico,Oregon and Washington state agreed to a regional goal of reducing greenhouse gases within six months.