As I anticipated in a blog item late last year, the Arizona version of the Utah Compact, called the "Arizona Accord," was introduced to the public at the state Capitol yesterday. It argues for a rational, humane approach to immigration reform.
The accord's statement of principles, which you can read, here, mirrors almost word for word those of the Utah Compact, which was issued in November 2010, in advance of efforts by Utah legislators to pass a copycat of Arizona's breathing-while-brown statute Senate Bill 1070.
These principles acknowledge that immigration is a federal issue, emphasizing that, "Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code."
That's at odds with the round-'em-up, ship-'em-home philosophy that still dominates the political discussion over immigration in Arizona.
So, too, is the accord's opposition to the separation of families, it's acceptance of the "economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers," and its welcoming attitude toward new arrivals.
"The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors," the accord reads. "Arizona should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill."
Sadly enough, those are fighting words in Arizona, where nativism is as nasty and persistent as strain of MRSA.
When the Utah Compact was rolled out in late 2010, it garnered powerhouse support from Utah's political, faith and business communities.
The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Utah's Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and the bishop of Salt Lake City's Catholic diocese signed on, among others. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement of support.
The Arizona Accord has yet to score such firepower.
So far, the signer's list includes such organizations as the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, the Arizona Farm Bureau, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform, which has sponsored a series of influential "immigration solutions conferences" around the state.
Politicos on board include former Congressman Jim Kolbe, former Mayor Phil Gordon, state Senator Jerry Lewis, and state Representative Tom Chabin.
Other signers of note: Republican activist Paula Pennypacker and commentator Julie Erfle, whose late husband Phoenix Police Officer Nick Erfle was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant in 2007.
On her blog PoliticsUncuffed, Erfle urged her readers to sign the accord, writing that,
"These groups and individuals realize that a lack of public discourse on immigration has made finding a solution nearly impossible, and they are hopeful this document will offer respectful and meaningful ways to move the dialogue forward."
Scott Higginson, the Mesa consultant who has been working on the project since spring of last year, said he's still in talks with local chambers of commerce and religious leaders about support for the measure.
He characterized yesterday's announcement as just the first step in what he hopes will be a groundswell of backers uniting across lines of race, ethnicity, faith and party.
"This isn't a one-shot deal," he promised. "This isn't, `Okay, we've talked to everybody and these are the people that signed up.'
"We just felt that we needed to get it out so we could start collecting public support through the website, [azaccord.com]."
He admitted that the Arizona Accord presents different challenges to its backers than the Utah version did for its supporters. Utah was "ahead of the curve," in that its compact was looking to influence the debate on immigration before it began in earnest.
"Here in Arizona, we're obviously coming out after there's already been a lot of controversy and discussion and dialogue," he told me. "I'm hopeful that with enough broad-based groups coming on board that [the accord] could help change the tone for the future.
"It's a tougher sell, but it's a worthy sell," he added.
Higginson emphasized that the principles of the accord are supposed to act as a guide for both federal and state lawmakers.
Prior to Tuesday's presser, state Representative Catherine Miranda had introduced a resolution in the House supporting the same principles as espoused by the accord.
Higginson said he has not read Miranda's resolution, but he stated that if the language was exactly that of the accord, the accord's supporters would "urge its passage as a statement of the sentiment of the legislature."
As noxious as this state's immigration debate can be, there are signs that Arizona residents are ready for Higginson's sales pitch.
An ASU Morrison Institute poll released in November showed that 78 percent of Arizonans would support a pathway to legalization for the undocumented if they have no criminal record, pay a fine, pay taxes and show they can speak English.
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The recall of ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce last year, and the willingness of his successful foe Jerry Lewis to embrace first the Utah Compact, and now the Arizona Accord, also signal a shift.
And yet, bashing illegal immigrants continues to be a mainstay of Sand Land politicians eager to attain or hold on to elective office.
Whether the Arizona Accord can tip the balance back to reason and away from bigotry is an open question.
Though, as Higginson points out, it's worth a shot.