DEAL OR NO DEALThe Grand Bargain is proving to be a tough sell. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled the Kennedy-Kyl-Bush-et al immigration bill, saying it was time to move on to the more important job of beating up on doofus Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Republicans, who managed to block a no-confidence vote in the attorney general, complained that the Democrats were--wait for it--playing politics. Good thing that was never a consideration back at Gonzo's Justice Department.
But let's not get distracted by the sorry state of the U.S. Justice Department. We're here to talk about immigration reform, which collapsed when Reid grew weary of lawmakers trying to amend the bill from every direction. The bill's setback delighted outliers on the right and the left, who were complaining about paths to citizenship, family unification, guest-worker programs, detention facilities, etc.--you name it, someone was bitching about it.
It wasn't so popular with voters, either. As we mentioned last week, the polling firm Rasmussen Reports noted that about half the voters opposed the plan, and only about one-fourth liked it. An even worse omen: 41 percent of voters thought the package would lead to more illegal immigration, not less. Only 16 percent thought it would slow the rush into the United States.
With the GOP split over the bill and Bush losing more of his dwindling base, Reid probably didn't see much downside in siding with voters and delivering another defeat to the White House.
But don't bury the bill, because it ain't dead yet. At a press confab with Ted Kennedy shortly after Reid pulled the plug, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl announced he had not yet begun to fight: "Sometimes in the Senate, you're committed that there be no result. This is a group of people who worked hard to overcome obstacles and always find a way forward, and we will find a way forward here."
We'll see how that works out. One major chore: whittling down the proposed amendments from, oh, 100 to a manageable 20 or so.
But that's the easy part. The biggest problem: convincing voters that the federal government will actually put its shoulder into the work of securing the border.
They've got good reason to be skeptical. The feds have added more Border Patrol agents, but it's like sticking fingers in the dike.
While the politicians talk about hiring more Border Patrol agents, they're not providing the resources to the rest of Arizona's federal court system, which is being crippled by illegal immigration. The Skinny had a chance to hear from Paul Charlton, one of the victims of the Bush administration's clumsy U.S. attorneys purge, and David Gonzales, the U.S. marshal for Arizona, up in Phoenix last weekend.
Both men said there was no way the federal judicial system had what it needed to deal with illegal immigration. There are not enough judges, not enough prosecutors, not enough jail cells to handle the all of the border-crossers who are being taken into custody.
"It's like building a great football team and having only linemen," Charlton said.
Here's one example: Gonzales says he's sending a check for $9 million every month to private prisons to house illegal immigrants. Gonzales says in his opinion, the system is "just absolutely crumbling."
Gonzales also warns that the drug cartels are going to become even more violent than we've already seen as they work with U.S. street gangs.
"We're going to see a lot more violence in Mexico and coming across the border," Gonzales predicted. "It's going to get much worse."
PARTY POOPAs we've mentioned in recent weeks, state party chair Randy Pullen's attack on the immigration plan supported by both of the state's U.S. senators has opened up something of a rift in the party structure.
GOP officials are saying their finances are healthy, but we're hearing that a lot of money guys plan to withhold funds. We'll see what's what as the next rounds of campaign-finance reports are filed. But is it a bad sign that Maureen Donovan, who was hired just a few months ago to head up fundraising, quit last week?
While the Minutemen continue to control party HQ, there was one bright spot for the biz wing of the party: Tucsonan Bruce Ash, the scion of the developer Paul Ash, was elected national committeeman last week. Ash, who has toyed with legislative, congressional and county office in recent years, is taking the job that Pullen gave up to take over as state chair earlier this year.
One big impact of Ash's election: Don Goldwater, who was one of the big voices against Kyl's immigration-reform package, didn't win. Goldwater was one of three guys up for the job, but he was eliminated a few weeks ago. Throw in his legislative and gubernatorial losses, and that makes Don a three-time loser.
PLAYING DEFENSEIt's not big news that public defenders--dedicated though they might be--are grossly overworked and vastly underpaid. Go figure: They represent po' folks.
But a former city legal clerk is making allegations that in the city court system, public defenders are so hamstrung that they can't provide those po' folks with adequate representation.
Alexis Mazón spent over three years in the City of Tucson Public Defender's Office. But on May 18, she sent a stinging letter to City Manager Mike Hein describing an operation where justice is trumped by the bottom line, and constitutional violations are knee-deep.
Those violations "start from the top with Department Director Chuck Davies," Mazón writes. "During his directorship, he has created a general climate of disdain for clients and systematically pressured attorneys to plead out clients as quickly as possible, irrespective of what may be in the best interest of the client. Mr. Davies' emphasis is on 'cost efficiency' and not on competent representation."
Davies only keeps stats on how many cases his lawyers close, she writes, rather than how well clients are represented. In fact, Mazón claims that office attorneys are discouraged from doing routine gumshoe legal work, such as interviewing cops or revisiting blood tests performed on their clients. She also says attorneys are restricted from interviewing clients in detention, and that detainees often get just a whisker of face time with their lawyers in the courtroom, just before facing the judge. Noncitizens are advised to accept plea deals--without being told that those deals could result in their deportations--and even interpreters for Spanish-speaking clients are in short supply, she says.
Rather than addressing the charges, Davies goes after Mazón. "You need to consider the source," he tells The Skinny, before launching into a tirade linking his former clerk to Derechos Humanos, an immigrant-rights group that has been the target of our sarcastic barbs for its open-border malarkey.
The Weekly, says Davies, "essentially is calling a nut-ball."
Beyond that, he refuses to discuss specifics until he gets a sit-down with Hein. "I'm answering (the allegations) specifically to my boss, the city manager," Davies says.
Mazón tells The Skinny she's disappointed by Davies' response, but is not exactly surprised. "It's interesting that he wouldn't respond to the allegations directly, given that my letter is pretty detailed," she says. "Instead of name-calling, perhaps he should address the substance of the letter."