Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano on Tuesday scolded a powerful East Valley Republican lawmaker who supports resurrecting a largescale deportation program from the 1950s called “Operation Wetback.”
During an interview on a local radio show last week, Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, called for reviving the 1953 military-style operation that systematically rounded up hundreds of thousands of illegal Mexican immigrants.
At a public speech in Mesa’s Dobson Ranch, Napolitano wasted no time ripping the outspoken lawmaker when asked about the controversial statement which had outraged the Hispanic community.
“It’s undoable. It’s unworkable, and I regret the use of inappropriate language,” Napolitano said to the applause of the nearly 140 people attending. “He’s talking about a massive roundup. But we need to be talking about comprehensive immigration reform.”
Napolitano made her remarks on the same day she appeared with President Bush as he signed a bill to erect a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexican border.
In the past, Napolitano has opposed constructing a fence, saying immigrants will find a way over. But now she supports the barrier only if its part of a comprehensive immigration reform plan that includes provisions such as a guest worker program and sanctions for employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers.
And she vowed to continue pressuring the Washington to step up its efforts to to seal off the state’s porous border.
Napolitano, seeking her second term in the November election, touted her record as governor and laid out her vision for the state’s future.
Napolitano reminded voters that when she took office in 2003, the state faced a $1.3 billion deficit. At the end of last fiscal year, Arizona had a surplus that exceeded a billion dollars.
While the governor attributes the turnaround to “strong leadership,” she also acknowledges that some of it was related to an uptick in the U.S economy, which had been reeling following the 2001 terrorist attacks.
When speaking about Arizona’s future, Napolitano stuck to the major themes of her re-election campaign: Education, economy and growth.
She linked the success of the economy to education, saying the state needs to turn out the types of workers who will attract companies.
“I speak to a lot of CEOs, and I’ve never been asked about tax cuts.” she said. “They want to know if we can give them the type of workers they need.”
Napolitano also warned that the state is expected to double in population over the next three decades to 12 million people. To handle that, the governor said it’s imperative the state focus on transportation, maintaining a sustainable water supply and preserving open spaces.