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Separate politics, policy on immigration?

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Separate politics, policy on immigration?

  • Demonstrators display their support for the DREAM Act in New York in March.
    longislandwins/FlickrDemonstrators display their support for the DREAM Act in New York in March.

If one can separate the politics from the policy, President Barack Obama's announcement on Friday to temporarily suspend deportations of young undocumented immigrants who are, as he puts it, "Americans ... in every single way but one, on paper" makes perfect sense – at least to most Arizonans.

In fact, most Arizonans would take it a step further.

A 2012 Merrill/Morrison Institute Poll found that nearly three-quarters of Arizona registered voters are in favor of the Dream Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants who graduate from college or serve in the military to become permanent U.S. citizens.

For most Arizonans, it's sound public policy.

Arizona's politics, of course, say otherwise – loudly.

President Obama had just barely finished his nationally broadcast announcement when Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was on CNN warning Wolf Blitzer and a national audience that the new policy is "a precursor to amnesty."

Arpaio's zero-tolerance stance might make great sound bites for the national media (CNN ran a screen crawler identifying him as "America's toughest sheriff"), but such an uncompromising stance is no way reflective of Arizona as a whole.

Contrary to popular belief aided and abetted by the national press, Arizona is not a deport-them-all state.

In fact, most Arizonans --78 percent of voters, according to a 2011 Merrill/Morrison Institute Poll – would support legislation for undocumented longtime residents to become citizens if they pay a fine, pass a criminal background check here and in their nation of origin, get a taxpayer ID number and demonstrate they can speak English.

Arizonans are not saying they are in favor of amnesty, but they are in favor of common-sense solutions — with conditions. And such conditions for a pathway to citizenship are not much different from President Obama's policy outlines for two-year deportation exemptions for young undocumented immigrants:

  • Be under age 30
  • Moved here before age 16
  • Lived in U.S. for at least 5 years
  • Have clean criminal records
  • Currently in school or have a high school degree or military service

As Obama said: "It makes no sense … to expel these young people who want to staff our labs or start new businesses or defend our country simply because of the actions of their parents or because of the inactions of politicians."

Admittedly, this permit process is but a stop-gap measure to a broken and ignored immigration system. As President Obama and so many others have noted, comprehensive immigration reform remains the ultimate goal for sound and sensible policy.

Congress needs to step it up, putting politics aside.

Unfortunately, separating politics from policy is difficult in both Arizona and Washington – and downright impossible for those who can neither tell nor willing to see the difference.

Morrison Institute for Public Policy is a leader in examining critical Arizona and regional issues, and is a catalyst for public dialogue. An Arizona State University resource, Morrison Institute uses nonpartisan research and communication outreach to help improve the state's quality of life.

The director of communications for the Morrison Institute of Public Policy at ASU, Garcia is a longtime, award-winning journalist whose experience as a top editor, columnist and reporter included positions at The Arizona Republic, The Daily Times, Tucson Citizen, USA Today and The Associated Press.

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barack obama, immigration, joe arpaio

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