Politicians and law enforcement officials from southern Arizona lashed out at state lawmakers Thursday, accusing the Republican-controlled Legislature of ignoring the wishes of the state’s border counties when crafting immigration laws.
The group of officials from three of the state’s four border counties gathered at the State Capitol to criticize GOP leaders for not allowing them to help find a solution to immigration-related issues.
‘‘The problem on the border is not going to be solved by building fences. It’s not going to be solved by some half-baked solution. And it’s not going to be solved by people sitting here in Phoenix,” said Tony Reyes, a Yuma County supervisor.
Later, several of the visiting civic leaders stormed out of a closed-door meeting with a key Republican legislator after the two sides began arguing about each other’s tactics.
“I told them that I thought it was politically stupid to lambaste the very people they were going to be talking with,” said House Speaker Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix.
Weiers said the meeting started with members of the group, who were all Democrats, criticizing Republicans’ efforts to finalize a comprehensive immigration bill that was scheduled to be released this week.
All but one of the 29-member delegation from southern Arizona walked out of the meeting roughly 10 minutes after it started. It was scheduled to last an hour.
Details of the comprehensive immigration bill were unavailable Thursday. Lawmakers have said it includes provisions to send National Guard troops to the border, sanction employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and provide money for a radar system to help tighten security along the 370 mile border with Mexico.
Senate President Ken Bennett, R-Prescott, said Republicans were pushing for action on the bill sometime at the beginning of next week. Bennett also met privately with the visiting officials.
However, the group bashed one proposal still being considered for the comprehensive bill — a measure allowing local law enforcement officials to arrest illegal immigrants under state trespassing laws.
Napolitano rejected that bill earlier in the session, saying law enforcement officials don’t want to waste money going after misdemeanors.
Likewise, Ray Borane, the mayor of Douglas, said Friday the proposed legislation would drain city and county resources along the border and damage local economies.
Borane then accused lawmakers from nonborder regions of having too much influence when it comes to crafting laws and of sidestepping the issue of hiring illegal immigrants.
But when asked how they would affect immigration measures being proposed by the Legislature, nobody in the group offered specifics, except to say they support the governor’s proposals.
During her State of the State address in January, Napolitano laid out a plan allocating $100 million to border security, including $50 million for a Border Security Mobilization Reserve fund, $13 million for law enforcement and another $14 million to construct a crime lab in southern Arizona.