Gov. Janet Napolitano is increasingly charting a course on immigration and border security that puts her at odds with legislators of her own party, particularly Hispanics.
The latest schism came Wednesday when the governor pronounced her support for using state tax dollars to set up a radar system along the state’s southern border to locate and help capture those who enter this country illegally.
Her comments came less than 24 hours after Democratic representatives railed against the Republicansponsored measure on the House floor. They argued, unsuccessfully, that $50 million should not be spent on something that is a federal responsibility.
Napolitano said that “in an ideal world” state taxpayers would not be on the hook.
“But the reality is, we are,” she said, saying state resources already are being spent on things such as fighting crime caused by border crossers.
Napolitano also has parted ways with many Democrats both in seeking to expand the role of the National Guard along the border as well as in supporting sanctions against companies that hire undocumented workers — two ideas that have been pushed by Republicans.
The divergence of views has not gone unnoticed.
“She’s pandering to the majority,” said Sen. Jorge Garcia, D-Tucson.
Rep. Pete Rios, DDudleyville, said Napolitano’s position on these issues is not surprising given Arizona politics. But he said he cannot condemn her.
“Clearly, this is a Republican state,” he said.
That is backed by the latest figures from the Secretary of State’s Office, which show Republicans with 152,000 more registered voters than Democrats.
And Rios said Democrats need to get the support of at least some Republicans in statewide races.
“We’re political animals,” Rios said, not only of Napolitano but also of himself and the other 89 legislators.
“We understand what it is that gets us here,” he continued. “We understand what we have to do to stay here.”
Gubernatorial spokeswoman Jeanine L’Ecuyer said Napolitano’s stance on immigration is not political. “The governor has said many times that this is not, and should not be, a partisan issue,” she said.
Pollster Earl de Berge said Napolitano’s position puts her in line with that of most Arizonans. “There’s just broad consensus across both parties and among independents for the notion that, hey, we should do what we can to stop the flow of illegal people, short of a Berlin Wall kind of thing,” de Berge said.
He said people understand that it is the responsibility of the federal government to secure the border.
“But she’s got constituents across the southern region of the state who have made it pretty clear that things are happening to them, their land and their property that they feel they have the right to be protected on,” de Berge said. Immigration bills updates
Legislative action Wednesday on immigration and border-related bills:
SCR1030: Description: Forbids state and local government agencies from accepting certain forms of identification for services; aimed at the Mexican consular ID card.
Status: Approved by House Appropriations Committee; now goes to full House.
SCR1031: Description: Expands the number of state programs that are off-limits to people not here legally. Status: Approved by House Appropriations Committee; now goes to full House.
HB2577: Description: Imposes penalties on companies that knowingly hire undocumented workers. Status: Approved by Senate Committee on Commerce and Economic Development; now goes to Senate Appropriations Committee.