Arizona Congressman David Schweikert admits he's no expert on immigration. Still, he insists that any immigration-reform proposal in Congress resulting in legal status for undocumented immigrants is "amnesty."
"I would love to sound like I'm really... an expert on [immigration] but I'm not," Schweikert told New Times Monday, before a debate in downtown Phoenix between Schweikert and his GOP primary rival in the Sixth Congressional District, fellow Congressman Ben Quayle.
In the op-ed, Schweikert erroneously claims that illegal immigrants in Arizona are no longer afraid of detection. The congressman argues that this lack of fear is due to a recent announcement by the Obama administration, revoking some of the federal government's so-called 287(g) agreements with Arizona law enforcement agencies.
The 287(g) program, which the administration is slowly phasing out, lets local cops enforce federal immigration law under the supervision of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The agreements allow for jail enforcement, street enforcement or both.
The announcement, which came the same day as the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's Senate Bill 1070, eliminated the state's existing street agreements, leaving in place the remaining 287(g) agreement in the state's jails.
Schweikert decried the move in his opinion piece, choosing to ignore the fact that another federal program called Secure Communities is in force in all of Arizona's jails. S-Comm, as some call it, identifies illegal immigrants through a federal database, using fingerprints.
According to the latest statistics from ICE, Arizona is the third highest state in booting undocumented immigrants from the country. And since 2008, Arizona has deported almost 21,000 illegal immigrants via S-Comm.
But for Schweikert, when it comes to the details of Secure Communities, ignorance is bliss.
"That's apples and oranges, isn't it?" Schweikert responded, when asked why he ignored S-Comm in his op-ed. "And I think that was a really unfair...misrepresentation on your part."
Carlos Garcia, an organizer with the local human-rights group Puente, put it best when he said that it's really hard for Republicans to accept the fact that President Obama has deported more immigrants than any other president.
"Both sides benefit for [Secure Communities] not to be discussed," Garcia explained to New Times recently.
"Republicans don't want to talk about it because it's been so effective in deporting people, and it's doing exactly what [Republicans] want it to do," he added. "Democrats aren't talking about it...because it's deporting our community."
Nevertheless, Schweikert says he is open for a discussion with pro-immigrant activists regarding immigration reform. In fact, the congressman gave out his phone number toward the end of the debate and encouraged those who wanted to start a dialogue to dial him up.
So if you can stand the smugness, give him a call at 480-659-9383. And tell him New Times sent ya.
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