Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lawmakers have hands full without imitating Arizona

Idaho has been included on an unscientific list of 20 states hankering to copycat Arizona's harsh immigration legislation, and indeed, Idaho Republican state Sen. Monty Pearce—ironically of the same name as Arizona state Rep. Russell Pearce who fathered Arizona's bill—is sympathetic toward such a law.

Wise heads will douse any passions for that misbegotten law in the Gem State. Idaho lawmakers will have their hands full in the 2011 session without trying to pre-empt the federal government's authority on immigration and ultimately discovering a world of hurt.


In addition to the court challenges to Senate Bill 1070 in federal court, Arizona is mired down in other crises since ideological Republican extremists took control of the state legislature and obsessed about immigration and other matters utterly unrelated to real problems of real people. Think Nero's fiddling while Rome burned.

Arizona is broke. Gov. Jan Brewer has been forced to appeal for donations on the Internet to pay legal fees in the state's fight with the feds. Arizona sold its dome Capitol building, and then leased it back. It's closed many state parks, cut 300,000 adults from state health care rolls (plus 47,000 children), fired scores of tax revenue auditors and thereby lost an estimated $174 million in tax collections.

Arizona lawmakers that didn't consider implications of tracking down illegal immigrants and arresting them are faced with new realizations. Detained illegal immigrants need detention facilities and jailers that aren't available, and they're entitled to hearings and trials that could take months or even years while they're living as guests of the state.

Then there are the anti-Arizona boycotts, lost tourism business, late night TV jokes and anti-Arizona political commentaries, plus fractured friendships in the state's historic cultural and business relationships with Mexico. Harper's Magazine pulls it all together in its July issue in a long, unflattering piece that portrays Arizona evolving into Mississippi West.

Is this what Idaho's Sen. Pearce wants?

Meanwhile, Idaho is sure to face tax revenue problems that will affect every state program up and down the line when lawmakers begin wielding the budget scalpel. Idaho's tax revenues will shrink as unemployment continues and some businesses go under. Public schools have been short-changed. Roads, bridges and dams need major work. Export marketing needs to be stepped up.

With these challenges, Idaho legislators don't have the energy, the funds or the time to go off on a wild goose chase over illegal aliens.

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