After more than two years of work, the Real Arizona Coalition has put together a platform for federal immigration reform supported by almost 40 state organizations, which include thousands of individuals such as business leaders, law enforcement officials, the faith community, civil rights activists, political leaders and more.
The effort is historic because it brings together people from opposite sides of the aisle for a grand compromise, something that hasn’t been attempted in years. It pairs Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, a staunch conservative and Tea Party favorite, with the former Chair of the National Council of La Raza, Daniel Ortega, Jr. Who could have guessed we’d see these two individuals on the same side of a legislative debate?
Others have joined in as well, and it is this team effort that makes me believe that for the first time in the five years I’ve been advocating for federal immigration reform, it may actually happen. I’m almost speechless. Almost.
Though the platform has the backing of influential leaders such as Montgomery and Ortega as well as former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, we still need Arizona’s congressional delegation to move the platform forward and begin work on federal legislation.
I remain optimistic because I’ve seen a real desire for compromise and civil discourse by members of Arizona’s congressional delegation. Just this past Sunday, reporter E.J. Montini wrote about Republican Congressman-elect Matt Salmon’s and Democratic Congressman Ed Pastor’s friendship and their desire to work together for the good of this state and country.
Consensus is tough, and this platform was not easy to obtain. As Ms. O’Connor said, “We agreed. We disagreed. And we compromised to produce what we regard as the S.A.N.E. solution.”
So what is this S.A.N.E. platform? It’s a framework for policymakers to address immigration reform by
Securing our sovereign borders
Accounting for everyone in the U.S. without lawful authority
Necessary bureaucratic reform implementation
Engaging all levels of government
In a nutshell it means that yes, we must secure our borders, but no, we must not seal them. The goal is operational control of the border, like what has been achieved in the Yuma Sector, without inhibiting trade with our most important partner.
We must reform our outdated visa system. We need a system that responds to changes in the market, whether those changes are in the low-skilled or high-tech sectors, and create a secure system for all employers to verify work eligibility.
And we must deal with the most controversial area of reform: the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants currently in this country. We know that we cannot deport nor would we want to deport 11 million people, but we also know amnesty – forgiving past wrongs and granting automatic citizenship — will not work and is a nonstarter for many Americans.
Instead, the S.A.N.E. platform offers temporary legal status to those who are currently undocumented, provided those individuals have no felony convictions, pay any taxes due, and undergo a background check. After five years those with temporary legal status who have completed all necessary administrative steps may apply for permanent legal status.
Those who are currently here undocumented who hope to one day gain citizenship will not be able to move to the front of the line but rather wait, on average, eight to ten years before being able to apply.
This platform will not satisfy everyone. Indeed, most people will want to add their own personal tweaks. However, compromise is a must if we wish to move this issue forward.
The eventual legislation will be a battle and everyone pushing for reform will be bruised in some way or another. But if individuals such as Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, and Bob Worsley, the newly elected Republican State Senator from District 25, can find a way to come together, can’t we all?
I encourage everyone to read more about the platform and sign on in support at therealarizona.org. This could be the beginning of a new role for Arizona, one that will make headlines for the right reasons.