Grijalva Growls at Napolitano Over Border Budget


H_9_ill_676197_usamexicoborder31There has been some talk about differences between two key Arizona Democrats, Napolitano and Grijalva, over strategy and policy concerning border reform. The dust emanates from the AZ Daily Star’s recent interview with Grijalva and some comments made to Bajo El Sol. I wasn’t very clear on what the hubbub was about, so I went back and read the interview more carefully. Because I overlooked some of the implications, I thought it might be useful if I posted what I found for others.

Grijalva is clearly very annoyed, but it is because he is concerned that the Governor’s proposal could harm efforts at comprehensive border reforms, not so much because he opposes her specific policy. He sees a prominent border-state Democratic Governor stepping up with a purely enforcement policy as a betrayal of the political goals of the Hispanic community.  He clearly thinks she went off the Democratic message of comprehensive border reform. Let me quote at length from the interview.

Star: Gov. Janet Napolitano has proposed spending a lot of money on borders.

If she gets it from the feds.

Well, she’s proposing spending some state money, too.

I was really disappointed in that. I was disappointed in that
we have a mantra to talk about comprehensive immigration reform.
    I think when the governor talked about and emphasized just one tier —
which she did with $100 million and put the troops on the border — she
took a little bit of the wind out of the comprehensive immigration
    And I don’t think politically the issue of immigration is so vexing that you can’t slip something under the door.

Like what?

Like enforcement only. While politically it’s expedient and
potentially very smart, the implication is, this is going to solve the
problem. It’s not. I like the governor. I think she’s great, but it
took serious wind out of the discussion here in Arizona about
comprehensive reform as opposed to single-issue reform.

Grijalva can often speak very obliquely and is easy to misunderstand.
Grijalva’s beef with the Guv is that her announcement was
premature and might tend to unbundle the many border issues that need
to be addressed. The Guv’s proposal could be used to cut the security
issue out of the herd of comprehensive reform issues. By separating the
security issues it is harder to get real reform because the impetus for
reform may be lost if the GOP is able to present additional enforcement
resources as a victory, denying that any other issues need to be

What about the governor’s frustration with the lack of movement on the federal level?

She could have done it well politically. … As far as
militarizing the border, while it’s expedient, it’s not the solution.
That’s my point.
    We’re going to be promoting this corresponding piece of legislation. We
are going to be proposing, with other border state congressmen,
independent of our differences on this, a border infrastructure
development agenda.
    What do we do about health care on that border? What do we do about
clean air and water? What do we do about sewage? What do we do about
transportation? What do we do about ports of entry, so that we’re
secure about who comes in and out and yet the commerce and economics of
this region aren’t suffering?
    I’m a comprehensive-reform person. I think short-term, expedient
solutions aren’t going to save it, and the long-term solution is
generational. It’s about economic development, that is sustainable in
those countries from which people are coming.

Grijalva’s problem is that the Guv broke ranks with the rest of the
border politicians. She charged ahead on her own. That makes her look
brave and responsive, but it leaves a gap in the line. If the GOP takes
her proposal and run with it, they could drive that wedge through the
reformers’ line.

When you talk about short-term vs. long-term, have we waited too long now?

What we’re doing right now on immigration reform is an
appeasement. We’re buying time to do something fundamental later. We’re
uncorking the crisis. Are we solving it? No.
    But you do have to uncork the crisis. It’s the best possible
appeasement to uncork this issue, take some pressure off, give us a
deep breath and then move on to what we need to do, which I think is

But you disagree with the governor’s perspective of doing something now.

I thought that was an appeasement and I said that to her.

Does everything start to look as appeasement after a while
though? I mean, in business, you’d sit back and say, do something now,
because the risk of doing nothing is more troublesome to those people.

I think it was a wonderful political move on the part of the
governor. A wonderful political move. And if I hadn’t had positions and
believed in positions prior to that, I’d say OK. ….
    My criticism is a criticism of trying to force the feds to do
something. I thought there was a better mechanism for Southwestern
governors to put pressure on us (Congress). … I thought the threat
was more important than the commitment, and I think the governor made
that commitment too soon. …
    The governor still supports comprehensive reform, but had to go in this
direction, and my criticism is that it was too soon, premature and
should have pushed the other aspects before we went to that direction.

I’m just curious because you kept talking about appeasement. …
I’m trying to understand exactly where you’re coming from, but it seems
to be all the same: politics.

Immigration has become political. It hasn’t become pragmatic or practical.

It’s a multi-layer approach?

It’s a tiered thing. And if the first emphasis is
enforcement, OK, let’s deal with it. And that’s all we ask from that
debate. When is the other stuff coming? And that’s what the Senate is
    (Rep. F. James) Sensenbrenner’s (R-Wis.) bill is going nowhere in the
Senate, simply because they want comprehensive and they want to tier it
in. The tier will be enforcement security first, probably guest worker
second and then some path to legalization third.
    I’m willing to accept that, and it’s a step in the right direction, but
if you don’t have those commitments that is going to be the sequence,
or at the very minimum the discussion point, then all you’re buying is

Grijalva is clearly recognizing that the politics have to be ‘uncorked’
and the radicals ‘appeased’ with some sort of immediate changes in
security before a more comprehensive and pragmatic approach can succeed. His criticism is not so much that the Guv is trying to appease the
radicals (he knows that this has to be done), but he felt that the
Governors of the Southwestern states in concert with those states’
delegations could have made common cause before Congress to get
something more realistic done. Such a coalition would have been a
stronger position to negotiate from. Her rash proposal, taken without
consultation apparently, weakens Grijalva’s ideal strategy.
Napolitano’s show-down with the Feds may look good, but Grijalva
doesn’t think it stands much chance of resulting in actual dollars or

In that judgment I would back Grijalva. I also think that Napolitano’s
move was political Kabuki that could easily backfire if the AZ GOP take
it seriously and send her a budget with 100 million in new state border
spending. It will be hard for her to refuse to sign such a budget, even
if it doesn’t meet her other budget priorities or stick to her concept of how the money should be spent. The main problem is that her proposal isn’t
conditioned on further comprehensive reforms. Her hasty pudding
proposal may have given away the political initiative and weakened her
office in backing any multilateral proposal from the border states to
the federal government. As Grijalva said, the Governor’s move may well
be politically brilliant, for her personally, but it turn into a
Phyrric victory if it costs those who advocate comprehensive reform the
ability to extract guarantees of continued reforms to follow on from
short-term security appeasements.

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Michael founded BlogForArizona as the Howard Dean campaign blog for Arizona in 2003, and has been blogging ever since. Michael is an attorney living in Tucson with his wife Lauren Murata. In 2008, following some health issues and new time constraints, Michael stepped back from regular blogging and began remaking BlogForArizona into a collaborative project. Michael now contributes occasionally to the blog and provides editorial and publishing direction. Also if you want to keep up with the latest Arizona and National political news that Mike finds important, check out the BlogForArizona twitter feed, which he curates.


  1. As one who was named by Congressman Raul Grijaliva as a “WHITE ANGLO SAXON MALE,” giving advice to the Governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano,on fixing our Nations “BROKEN BORDER POLICIES,” and supporting her efforts to “INFORCE THE RULE OF LAW BY PUTTTING THE NATIONAL GUARD ON THE BORDER TO AID THE BORDER PATROL AND INS AND DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY,” and by his remarks he is undercutting American jobs by supporting Big Bussiness by importing cheap labor from Mexico,I find Mr. Grijaliva on the “WRONG SIDE of the Border,” and on the “WRONG SIDE OF THE AMERICAN WORKER!” If NAFTA and CAFTA would have included UNION negotians in its original CONTRACT signed by Presidents Clinton and Bush we would not have this illegal migrant worker problem at all! I worked as a member of the AFL-CIO my whole life and saw Arizona’s wage scale cut because of cheap Mexican Labor! So I find Raul Grijaliva “THE POT CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK!”

    Dwight D. Leister:Chair
    T.Mae Leister: First Vice Treasurer

  2. Mike, I think you are overestimating the political skill of the Republican leadership in the legislature. The Republicans won’t spend any state money on border issues, they’d rather make local law enforcement do it (and cut how much state support they get…). Besides, there’s no way to give corporate tax credits for it.