It seemed like a sign of the times that Attorney General Terry Goddard was in Congress to talk about Arizona’s efforts to crack down on money laundering by drug cartels, but the only thing the congressmen wanted to talk about was S1070.
Goddard on July 22 testified at a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security hearing on how to stop illegal immigration, and Goddard said he was there to discuss the steps the Arizona Attorney General’s Office has taken to stop the flow of money of Mexican cartels and human-smuggling groups. But members of the committee were far more interested in discussing Arizona’s strict new illegal immigration law and sanctuary city policies, and denouncing the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Arizona over S1070.
Goddard said he outlined Arizona’s six year-old program, but was surprised that committee members kept straying from the topic. He urged the committee to approve $50 million for anti-money laundering programs to Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.
“It just went into … sort of unconnected statements about immigration. And the congressmen would come in, get in their seat, make their statement, ask a question and then leave,” Goddard said. “It was fascinating, but I’m not sure how productive.”
One committee member thought every city in Arizona was a so-called sanctuary city, Goddard said, and pondered whether the federal government should prosecute them. Another wondered aloud whether cartel leaders should be deemed enemy combatants, the same status given to many international terrorist leaders. Others simply wanted to make general denunciations of the federal government’s lawsuit against Arizona.
“I would say on both sides that was a bipartisan affliction,” he said.
Goddard said he was more interested in discussing Arizona’s anti-money laundering program and other efforts against drug cartels, and the ways those programs could be applied on a nationwide level. He suggested that greater cooperation on such issues between the four border states and the federal government could be a boon to the fight against violent drug cartels.
If Goddard had trouble diverting people’s attention away from S1070 in Washington, D.C., things don’t look like they’ll get any better once he’s back in Arizona. Goddard, the Democrats’ candidate for governor, has been taking a pounding in the polls since Gov. Jan Brewer signed the popular law.
S1070 has put Goddard in a tough spot. He opposed the law, but said he believes it is constitutional. He also tried to defend Arizona in the Justice Department lawsuit, but was removed from the case by Brewer, whom he will face in the November election.
Goddard’s campaign has focused largely on the economy and jobs, but the furor over S1070 has kept the attention of the public on illegal immigration. As Brewer’s erstwhile challengers for the Republican nomination learned – before they dropped out of the race – illegal immigration is a winner for Brewer, and anyone hoping to hit her on other issues may have a tough road ahead.