Gov. Janet Napolitano insists, in the face of mounting criticism, that she has taken the lead on immigration issues in Arizona. But she's chosen an odd way to lead.
After vetoing several immigration-related bills, including one to let local police assist federal agents in handling illegal aliens, Napolitano calls a secret summit of law enforcement officials to look into doing precisely that. Then she promptly leaves the state.
Meanwhile, the governor's press secretary is busy spinning her boss' vetoes as sound public policy. The law enforcement bill would have “forced” local police to pick up training and enforcement, Jeanine L’Ecuyer stated in a letter published in Tuesday's Tribune. But in the next breath she also tacitly acknowledges the bill wasn't a mandate, but then lists that as another good reason to veto it because “the bill changed nothing.”
It's tough making inconsistency sound like consistency.
This is not to say law enforcement officials at every level shouldn't at some point sit down and work out the logistics of dealing with immigration-related problems. But it would have made a lot more sense to first convene a public forum in the Valley or Tucson, where the problems are becoming especially acute, and invite key policy makers, including legislative leaders.
The easy passage of Proposition 200 in November is proof the public is keenly interested in this issue, and wants to know how its elected officials plan to deal with it. Slamming the door on the public and the 22 legislators who went to Flagstaff on Tuesday is worse than nonsensical — it's an outrage. And the fact that the governor isn't even around to consider fixing this outrage makes it that much worse.
L’Ecuyer is correct in her letter to the Tribune that local police were less than thrilled with the law enforcement bill passed by the Legislature. A police union official stated in the Tribune at the time that local police had their hands full with other matters and shouldn't be called on to help federal authorities do their job.
But as Department of Public Safety Director Roger Vanderpool acknowledged on Tuesday, immigration-related problems cannot be handled effectively by a single agency in isolation. It's time for a cooperative approach among all law enforcement agencies.
That's what the Legislature called for and that's what the governor vetoed, regardless of how she now attempts to spin it. And any “summit” that pretends to address this issue of utmost public interest must be open and inclusive.