Napolitano Pays Lip Service To Illegal Immigration

PHOENIX (AP) — Governor Janet Napolitano has joined some of her critics in saying the state should do more to confront illegal immigration, but she cautioned that Arizona shouldn’t let the federal government off the hook for its perceived failure to secure the border with Mexico.

The governor said one way the state can try to lessen some of its illegal immigration problems is to have local police departments augment the efforts of U.S. Border Patrol agents.

“The state can, I think, appropriately address some of the law enforcement resource issues, not by being immigration agents, but by perhaps providing some of the support services,” Napolitano said.

She declined to specify the type of help she thinks local police agencies could offer. The subject will be examined at a July 12 meeting of law enforcement agencies from across Arizona.

Since voters approved a law last year that denies some welfare benefits to illegal immigrants, a growing number of frustrated politicians in Arizona have pushed for the state to confront illegal immigration, even though it has long been considered the domain of the federal government.

While immigrants provide the economy with cheap labor, Arizona and other states shoulder huge health care and education costs for illegal workers and their families.

Once considered a black hole that few elected officials wished to enter, illegal immigration has taken a more prominent role in Arizona politics, especially at the Legislature this year.

Some of the Democratic governor’s Republican critics say she has sent mixed messages on immigration and has given attention to the problem because it will play a part in next year’s gubernatorial race.

Napolitano has tried to get the federal government to pay the state $217 million in unreimbursed costs for imprisoning illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes in the state.

When the governor vetoed a proposal that would have barred illegal immigrants from attending adult education classes and receiving child care assistance, she was trying to please her supporters who advocate for immigrants, Pearce said.

“All she is trying to do is make sure she can’t lose,” Pearce said.

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