WASHINGTON - Arizona¬ís leaders are in a bind over immigration, pressured by political crosswinds that reflect the growing national debate over how to control U.S. borders.
Republicans are bashing Republicans.
The Democratic governor is in cahoots with a GOP senator.
Both parties fear voter backlash.
Bordering Mexico, Arizona may be the perfect spot to show the state of policy and politics of U.S. immigration.
In a word, it¬ís a mess.
¬ďYou¬íll find every view in Arizona,¬Ē jokes Rep. Jeff Flake, a conservative Republican from Mesa.
In the House, he has backed the approach of the state¬ís most notable politician, GOP Sen. John McCain, who wants to give illegal immigrants a clear path to citizenship through work.
Different politicians on same side
McCain¬ís position puts him on the side of President Bush and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ¬ó and many prominent Democrats, including Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and liberal icon Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.
Arizona¬ís junior senator, Republican Jon Kyl, also wants to help the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants remain in the United States legally, but his approach would make it harder for them. He wants illegal immigrants to return to their native countries before returning as so-called guest workers.
Then there is another conservative Arizona lawmaker, Rep. J.D. Hayworth, who has written a book that proposes building a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, using armed forces to help patrol the region and denying citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.
There is unanimity on one point in Arizona: illegal immigration is a major problem.
The state is the largest gateway for illegal immigrants, accounting for 54 percent of the 1.1 million apprehensions nationwide during the 2004 fiscal year. It is home to an estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants out of the state¬ís population of about 6 million, a costly drag on health care, education and law enforcement budgets.
¬ďArizona has been devastated by this issue,¬Ē McCain said.
Long considered a federal problem, limited to a few ¬ďgateway states¬Ē such as California and Arizona, illegal immigration is now a front-burner issue across the country.
Illegal immigrants are moving to states like North Carolina, Iowa, Ohio and Georgia as they seek jobs and establish communities. North Carolina alone had 390,000 illegal immigrants in 2004, nearly 16 times its number in 1990, according to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis.
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