By Rodney Glassman
Arizona bears the brunt of Washington's failure to fully address the issue of immigration. Lawmakers have chosen to posture and demagogue rather than sit down and fix the problem.
So, instead of federal immigration reform, Arizona got SB 1070, a wrong-headed approach that will do nothing to secure the border and will have little effect on illegal immigration nationally. What it will do is subject police officers to frivolous lawsuits, and friends and neighbors who look a certain way to unconstitutional treatment from law enforcement.
What we need is a way to address the problem with an all-of-the-above federal approach.
We must secure the border. Securing the border means hiring the appropriate number of Customs and Border Protection agents to get the job done. (Oddly, John McCain has attacked me for saying this.) It means unmanned aerial vehicles flying watch over the border. It means ground sensors to monitor illegal crossings. And it means working with Mexican authorities to help snuff out the drug traffickers before they reach the United States.
Securing the border doesn't just mean building a fence or a wall. Walls didn't work in China, the Maginot Line didn't work in France during World War II and a fence alone won't work in Arizona. John McCain once called the fence the least-effective way to secure the border. Now he says he supports it. Where will he stand tomorrow?
When we have those border agents hired on the job, their primary mission should be to protect America from drug runners, human traffickers and the gangs like MS-13 -- not to chase down those who would like to come to our country legally, pay taxes and work. As long as there is a demand for labor, illegal immigrants will continue to cross the border.
We must address the fact that our nation's current economic realities do not match our immigration policy. Legislation like the AgJobs bill, crafted in a bipartisan effort with the United Farm Workers and American Farm Bureau Federation, highlight how cooperation and collaboration can lead to solutions. This is also legislation John McCain refuses to support.
At the same time, we need to streamline the process for legal immigrants to come here. It shouldn't take 10 years to get paperwork in order, and I've worked with people whose paperwork has been bogged down that long. It can cost $10,000 for an immigration attorney -- most people are not likely to be able to afford that.
An all-of-the-above federal approach also recognizes reality. We are not going to arrest and deport the estimated 12 million people here illegally now. I do not support amnesty. They need to pay a fine, pay back taxes and learn English before getting on a path to legalization. That path must exist or we will always have an illegal immigrant problem. John McCain once co-sponsored legislation to address this. Now he opposes a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. Where he will stand in January is anyone's guess.
Compassion must be part of the plan. There are kids living in the United States whose parents brought them over when they were too young to be legally held accountable for breaking the law. They know nothing of their home country and are as American as any of us. They didn't have a choice to be here, and deporting them would be a violation of basic human rights.
That's why I support the DREAM Act, which gives young people who had no say in coming here illegally a way to get on a path to citizenship, so they can go to college and serve in our armed forces. John McCain co-sponsored the DREAM Act three times. Last month, he voted against it.
The issue has been talked to death for years. It's time for action. John McCain has been on all sides of the immigration. I've been on one, and it's the right approach.
Rodney Glassman is the Democratic candidate for Senate from Arizona.
Editor's note: Sen. John McCain did not respond to invitations to write an op-ed on the topic of immigration reform.