Arizona Attorney General: Time for White House to Stop ‘Sloganeering’ on Immigration; Law Distorted by Both Sides

By Alex Pepper

Jul 23, 2010 3:49pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard is in a peculiar position when it comes to his state’s controversial new immigration law: He opposes the law but stood ready to defend it in court – until the state legislature stripped him of that power.


From his post on the sidelines of raging debate, Goddard, D-Ariz., told us on ABC/Washington Post’s “Top Line” today that both sides – up to and including White House officials – are distorting the law’s actual impact.


“It was unfortunate when both the attorney general [Eric Holder] and the president attacked it and then said they hadn’t read it. So a certain amount of real, knowledgeable discussion would have been helpful at the beginning,” Goddard told us.

“The bottom line is, we have a problem on the border. Let’s focus our efforts on that, and on our immigration problem — the illegal aliens that are in this country. I think we need to resolve that. Arizona has said overwhelmingly that they want some action. They want to see either the [Senate Bill] 1070 solution — which is a law enforcement solution — or they want to see immigration reform. Interestingly, about the same numbers in polling I’ve seen indicates support for both.”


Goddard is running for governor against Gov. Jan Brewer, R-Ariz., who has emerged as a champion of the new law, and is coordinating efforts to defend the law in federal court in the challenge filed by the Obama administration.


“I would have, had I been governor at the time, would have asked the legislature do a better job — focus on the real problem and help us in Arizona, and hopefully, with the help of the national government, actually fight back against the [drug] cartels, who are the real problem,” Brewer said.


He also believes the federal government should not be using resources to block the new law – even if that law is misguided in his opinion.


“The other thing is, we need immigration reform. I mean, we need to put everybody on the same page, and I wish this administration, this Congress, would get to work on that, and not work on a lawsuit in Arizona which is gonna go on for a long time. I mean, whoever wins this particular issue — it’s gonna be appealed. Unfortunately, it will be argued for years,” Goddard said.


He added: “I’m really pleading with the administration to slow down, to get out of the sloganeering, and let’s look at the real criminal problem. I’m a law enforcement person. I would like to see us go after the criminals in this case, and they are very — the Justice Department last year said this was the most serious organized crime threat to the security of the United States were the cartels. So let’s go after the cartels. We’ve identified the problem. Let’s do everything we can to knock ‘em down.”


As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, Goddard said “it will be very hard” for local police officers to carry out the law.


He also called for an end to boycotts of his state sparked by opposition to the new law, which is scheduled to take effect next week, barring a court injunction.


“Arizona is wrestling with the problems the nation has failed to deal with, and that’s the border issues, that I’m focused on, and it’s immigration reform,” he said. “Why are we being penalized for raising the red flag and saying, ‘Excuse me, country: We’ve got a problem here?’


“I think we’ve still got to debate how we’re gonna resolve that problem, but we have raised the danger rocket. We’ve set off the flare. And to penalize us right now for doing that — when the lady that signed the bill is an unelected governor, and we have elections in the fall — let Arizona work on this first. And let us get to a conclusion before the rest of the assembled might and the dignity of the United States comes down and hammers us economically. And the people who are being hurt the most, frankly, I believe, are many of the folks they want to help. So I think a boycott is a very crude instrument, and I wish people would back off.”


Watch the full interview with Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard HERE.


For our “Post Politics” segment, we chatted with Amy Gardner of The Washington Post about Sharron Angle’s, R-Nev., difficulties in her campaign against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.


And ABC’s Jonathan Karl caught up with the Senate’s chief critic of global warming science, Sen. Jim Inhofe, on another hot day in Washington. Though he built an igloo near the Capitol as a tribute to Al Gore last winter, he’s unfazed by the heat wave.


“I don’t think that anyone disagrees with the fact that we actually are in the middle of a cold period that started about nine years ago,” said Inhofe, R-Okla.

Watch that “Top Line” segment HERE.

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