Gov. Doug Ducey took a slap Tuesday at the new Trump administration policy that seeks to deny “green cards” to those at the bottom of the economic ladder.
“I’m someone who thinks we need a balanced approach,” the governor said when asked about the new plan that would deny permanent legal status – known as green cards – to people in this country legally if it is determined they are likely to use government programs like food stamps and subsidized housing.
That would be determined on a variety of factors ranging from income to the ability to speak English. And the rule would apply on the basis of the chance of needing benefits, not whether anyone actually is receiving them.
The governor, speaking to reporters after a ceremonial bill signing, also said he questioned the wisdom of the recent raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on workplaces looking for those who are in this country illegally.
“I’d like to see us prioritize criminals, drug cartels, human traffickers, child sex traffickers,” he said. “I think that would be the best use of federal law enforcement and state and local law enforcement.”
In discussing the issue of who would be able to get permanent resident status under the new rules, Ducey said this country needs more than those who already are financially sound.
“It’s not only people at the graduate level and the Ph.D. level that we need,” the governor said.
“We also need entry-level workers and people who can work in the service economy.”
He said the employment situation in Arizona proves his point.
“We’ve got more jobs available than we have people to fill them,” Ducey said. “It can’t just be about people at the top.”
The governor said it’s about opportunity.
“I want to see people that will climb the economic ladder,” he said. “I think many of us have a family story similar to that.”
That, said Ducey, goes back to his preference for a more balanced approach to immigration than the Trump plan envisions.
“We have the ‘haves’ and the ‘soon-to-haves,’ ” he said. “And both of them are part of proper immigration reform.”
The ability of immigrants to support themselves has always been a part of the consideration when determining if someone who enters this country legally should be granted permanent legal status. But the proposal by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, scheduled to be published formally on Wednesday uses income as a much stronger indicator of whether the applicant is likely to become a burden and, therefore, ineligible.
One section says that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services “will generally consider 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines to be a heavily weighted positive factor in the totality of the circumstances.” In essence, that suggests anyone above that level – $64,375 for a family of four – will have little problem qualifying.
At the other end, it says that the absolute minimum income for even being considered will be in the neighborhood of half that much.
“More specifically, if the alien has income below that level, it will generally be a heavily weighted negative factor in the totality of the circumstances.”
The proposal states that it is “rationally related to the government’s interest in ensuring that aliens entering the United States or seeking to settle here permanently are not likely to become public charges.”
“The regulation minimized the incentive of aliens to immigrate to the United States because of the availability of public benefits and promotes the self-sufficiency of aliens within the United States,” the proposed rule states.
Ducey’s comments on priorities in enforcement of immigration laws follow raids last week at seven food processing plants in Mississippi where 680 workers were picked up by ICE in what was thought to be the largest one-day sweep in U.S. history.
“Let’s prioritize,” the governor said.
He said there were “some bad guys in the mix” of those who were picked up in the raids.
“But I want to see our assets being deployed properly and in an even-handed way,” he said.
Ducey also questioned whether the government should be going after the owners of the companies that hire people suspected of being in this country illegally.
On one hand, Arizona law requires the use of the federal E-Verify system to determine an applicant’s immigration status, though there is no penalty for failing to use it. But the attorney general’s office said that companies that do not use the system are ineligible to receive government contracts or economic development incentives.
“But at the same time I don’t know that an employer has to be an expert in immigration law,” Ducey said.
“If somebody wants to work, you should have the ability to hire them,” the governor continued, saying he “can be open-minded” to laws about employment as part of the way to solve the problem of illegal immigration.