U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords didn't retract her opposition to SB 1070 Thursday, but said it has already served its purpose by grabbing the federal government's attention.
If the federal government had been enforcing its own immigration laws, there would be no need for the state's divisive new immigration-enforcement law, she told about 200 people from the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Greater Tucson Leadership.
Giffords also said it's ironic U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder filed a suit against the state, saying Arizona shouldn't intrude on the federal government's responsibility. If federal officials had the border under control, "we wouldn't be here. No lawsuit. No SB 1070," she said.
Most important, the border needs to be secured, and the bill does nothing toward that end, she said.
In Washington, D.C., people regularly ask what is wrong with Arizona, Giffords said. "I tell my colleagues we're not crazy, we just want the federal government to do its job."
Giffords made several other points about the border and related issues, including:
• The immigration debate has diverted the public's attention from the economy, which depends on a better education system to generate higher-paying jobs. The more good jobs America creates, the less employers will rely on immigrants here on special work visas to fill those positions.
• A "tough" path to citizenship, but not blanket amnesty, needs to be part of immigration reform.
When the country really begins working through immigration problems, blanket amnesty will not work, she said, citing a 1986 immigration plan that gave citizenship to those who had been in the country for four years.
"We have set the standard that citizenship will be granted here with a mass amnesty," she said.
• To bring Washington up to speed with Arizona's immigration issues, Giffords said she has taken many trips to the border with other elected officials and members of the Obama administration, and hosts a regular telephone meeting between border ranchers and chairs of key House committees.
Greater Tucson Leadership hosts an annual federal-issues discussion, and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce joined the group this year to ask Giffords to address immigration.
"It's important, as the local business community, to continue to engage with our federal representatives. We need to keep them engaged," said Lea Márquez Peterson, president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
On StarNet: Find extensive coverage of immigration issues at azstarnet.com/ news/local/border
Contact reporter Andrea Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 807-7790