Local and national business groups are funding a media campaign launched Wednesday in Arizona to convince voters the United States has done enough to secure the border and now needs to legalize the 12 million or more undocumented immigrants and consider allowing more foreigners into this country.
The group, Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together, is going to spend “several hundred thousand dollars” on TV advertising in four states. Jim Pignatelli, president and chief executive officer of UniSource Energy Corp., the parent of Tucson Electric Power, said the time has come to move the debate along and find ways to help business get the workers they need.
And Pignatelli said the best place to start is with those already here.
“You can’t ignore 10 to 12 million people who are trying to make a living, who are undocumented,” he said. Pignatelli, who said he is interested in the issue from a personal perspective and not because of his role at Tucson Electric, said if they could somehow be deported “it would take years for another 10 to 12 million to come in” to fill the jobs they are doing now. “These people are providing valued services to the economy,” he said.
The commercial says there have been “incredible strides” made in border security, the number of deportations is up and there are stronger penalties against employers who hire undocumented workers. Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that’s fine — as far as it goes.
“We need to finish the job on immigration reform at the federal level,” he said. Hamer said that means not just legalizing those already here but ensuring that employers can bring in more foreign workers.
“It is an extraordinary benefit, not a burden, that people from all over the world who are bright and hard working want to come to the United States, want to come to Arizona, improve their lives and improve the prosperity for all Americans,” he said.
But the effort to reshape the debate comes as many incumbent federal lawmakers and those hoping to unseat them in November are appealing to voters by promising to do more to staunch the flow of illegal immigrants into Arizona.
Even Sen. John McCain, who sponsored a comprehensive immigration reform bill last year that included a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, has backed away from his own plan.
“I get it,’’ McCain said last August, acknowledging the public wants more done to secure the borders before any talk of immigration reform. And McCain, in a televised debate, said he would not vote for his own legislation if it came back.