Former Arizona attorney general makes the ‘law and order’ case for immigration reform

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Two weeks ago, a bipartisan group of 36 current state attorneys general and 76 former state attorneys general signed a letter to Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid backing immigration reform.

Yesterday, I spoke with one of the signers, Grant Woods, a Republican who served as Arizona’s Attorney General from 1991-1999.

“I think what we have now is the worst of all worlds,” Woods told me over the phone. “We have an ineffective system, and consequently, you have a lot of people coming over here … but you’ve also got people who are taking advantage of them.”

While state attorneys general are mostly in favor of immigration reform, I asked Woods why some people fear immigration reform will result in more — not less — crime.

“The idea that by having a pathway to citizenship is going to somehow attract criminals is really kind of absurd,” he said. “People who want to come here to commit crimes aren’t going to be encourage by a 13-year process. It makes no sense.”

What is more, he argued that it would allow the police to actually focus on crime prevention, rather than doing the federal government’s job.

“A functioning comprehensive immigration system will, in the end, free the hands of state and local law enforcement so they can focus on protecting neighborhoods and the public in general,” he said.

Of course, the fundamental cleavages between supporters and opponents of immigration reform often comes down to differing levels of trust regarding border security.

Woods believes it can be done, and that this immigration reform bill will help achieve that goal. After all, he says, the only reason it hasn’t is a lack of political will.

“I think the message is that it is unacceptable that the greatest county in the world that is built upon immigration can’t establish a functioning immigration system,” he averred. “It’s unacceptable that the most powerful country in the world can’t control its own border.”

Matt K. Lewis