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TOUCH AND GO

Everybody keeps saying that Congress has until August to push through some sort of comprehensive immigration-reform package. If it takes any longer than that, lawmakers will be too caught up in the 2008 election cycle to get anything done. Well, it's nice to know that they can at least work for eight months out of every two years before campaign concerns get in the way.

Last week, Republican Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona teamed up with Democrat Luis Gutierrez of Illinois to introduce the Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act, the latest effort at that comprehensive reform package. The STRIVE Act is pretty close to the McCain-Kennedy package that the White House favored, with one major change: The so-called "touchback" provision. People who have entered the country illegally will have to return to their home country if they want to get on the yellow brick road to citizenship.

They would, however, be allowed to stay in the United States to work for up to six years, as long as they registered with the government and passed a background check.

That strikes us as a reasonable compromise. And not only us: Even though he doesn't much like it, Congressman Raúl Grijalva recognizes that the touchback provision is crucial to winning the support of some lawmakers, so he's down with it, as is Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

To no great surprise, the STRIVE Act has the loony-fringe end of the border debate (we're looking your way, Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo) freaking out about "amnesty"--as if fines and a requirement to leave the United States on the hope that they'll be allowed back in at a later date doesn't represent a penalty. But then again, that crowd isn't going to accept anything short of a big ol' roundup and deportation of every illegal immigrant in the country. And since that's never going to happen, they might as well be saying that they like the current status quo.


HAVE WE GOT PROPOSITIONS FOR YOU!

Speaking of illegal immigration: We told you a few weeks ago that state Rep. Russell Pearce was trying to pressure the Arizona Legislature into passing his employer-sanction bill by threatening to run a ballot initiative.

Well, lookee here: Even though the House has passed his bill, Pearce says he doesn't have much faith that the Senate will follow suit, or that Gov. Janet Napolitano will sign it into law. So he's teamed up Don Goldwater and Chris Simcox, founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, to launch not one, but two initiative drives.

The LAW initiative--which stands for Legal Arizona Workers--is designed to go after employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. The proposal is even stiffer than the employer-sanctions bill that Pearce is pushing through the Legislature, which would strip employers of their business license on a third offense. The LAW initiative would put them out of business permanently the first time they were busted with illegal workers on the payroll.

The second initiative resurrects the trespassing legislation that hasn't made it into law over the last several sessions. The Support Our Law Enforcement initiative, or SOLE, would require police officers to demand proof of citizenship from everyone they come in contact with. If you can't prove you're in the country legally, you'll be hauled off to jail.

Supporters will have to collect a minimum of 153,365 valid signatures to put the propositions before voters on the November 2008 ballot.

Goldwater, who got blown out in last year's GOP gubernatorial primary, sent out a bulletin urging folks to support the proposals:

"Arizona law enforcement must be funded and have authorization from its citizens to address a crime wave that has reached critical mass," Goldwater wildly overstated in his mass e-mail. "Our neighborhoods are being invaded by foreign nationals who have no right to be in our country. Illegal alien gangs run rampant (congressional report puts the deaths at 9,000 each year at the hands of illegal aliens); our schools and health-care systems, jails, state prisons and criminal-justice system are overpopulated and overburdened with foreign nationals who contribute nothing to the economy, and who receive their maintained (sic) at the expense of the taxpayers. The costs are in the billions of dollars."

Well, these propositions will certainly ease the pressure on the criminal-justice system.

We don't get up to Maricopa County all that much, but has Phoenix really turned into a Mad Max post-apocalyptic nightmare? Because while we know that illegal immigration has done plenty of damage to the environment and to the peace of mind of people who live along immigrant trails, we know things aren't nearly that bad here in Tucson.


MILITARY PROPAGANDA

Nearly three years after he was killed, the U.S. Army finally concluded its investigation into the friendly fire death of Cpl. Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinals player who gave up his NFL career to join the Army Rangers after Sept. 11.

The report concludes that when Tillman was killed in Afghanistan by his own troops, Army brass almost immediately started making up a load of bullshit that he died charging at enemy forces.

It was only after Tillman's family started questioning what they were being told that the real story started leaking out. No surprise there--it's not exactly good recruiting material to say that the guy who sacrificed his life got killed by his own fellow soldiers during a bungled operation.

But it's disgraceful that the Tillman family was lied to for as long as they were. Acting Army Secretary Pete Geren has called for the officers involved in confabulating the bogus stories to be disciplined.

Geren also apologized to Tillman's family.

"We as an Army failed in our duty to the Tillman family, the duty we owe to all families of our fallen soldiers: to give them the truth, the best we know it, as fast as we can," he said.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, who held Tillman up as a sterling example of a man who was willing to sacrifice everything for his country in the days after he was killed, blasted the Army for its handling of the affair.

"The tragic passing of Pat Tillman was a great loss to the nation and to his family and friends," McCain press-released. "The botched investigations that took place following his death were inexcusable and only prolonged the pain of his loved ones, who have sacrificed for our nation and endured a horrific situation."


JOHN MCCAIN: THE 2008 MODEL

Speaking of John McCain: He conceded this week that he wasn't likely to reach his first-quarter fundraising goal for that run for the White House that he's expected to formally announce any day now.

But we've been reading in the news that McCain has been insisting on the campaign trail that he hasn't changed one bit from the maverick firebrand everyone fell in love with back in 2000.

Oh, except for the fact that he's now buddies with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who he once dismissed as an agent of intolerance; he now wants to keep those Bush tax cuts permanent for the richest people in the country, no matter what impact it has on the federal budget; he can't understand why anyone would have thought the Iraq war would have been easy, even though he himself said it would be; and he can't quite seem to figure out where he stands on gay marriage/civil unions.

Other than that, though ...

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