By Gustavo Arellano
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"We urged her not to sign that bill," said former Arizona state Senate majority leader and immigrant-rights advocate Alfredo Gutierrez.
In short order, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas issued a formal opinion stating that all illegal aliens, not just the smugglers, would be prosecuted under the statute.
Arizona law now equates the impoverished human cargo with the smugglers who transport the gardener, the dry-waller, the maid and the baby-sitter.
"[Arizona is] the only state in the union where coming across the border is a felony," said Gutierrez.
Napolitano also signed the nation's toughest employer-sanctions legislation.
The heads of the cartels and the crop pickers, the bossed and the boss—everyone is equally guilty.
In the same year that she signed the smuggling bill, Napolitano declared a state of emergency using the fallout from unauthorized immigrants to garner seven-figure disaster relief from the federal government.
Responding to Napolitano's 2005 state of emergency declaration, Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth attacked Napolitano for leeching off the federal teat and suggested that what the governor ought to do is call out the National Guard instead.
An anti-immigration barnburner, Representative Hayworth's crack-skull theatrics made him notorious. Washingtonian magazine identified Hayworth in 1998 as the second-biggest "windbag" on the Hill after surveying 1,200 congressional staffers. He once suggested that Arizona ranchers had discovered the hastily abandoned prayer rugs and Korans of Muslims sneaking across the Mexican border into the United States. Hayworth's dissemination of this sort of Internet gossip—mixed with his propensity for using disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who provided the congressman with sports-arena skyboxes for fund-raising—eventually led to his ouster by voters.
And yet Napolitano took to heart Hayworth's idea of the militarization of the border.
Aware that the congressman was considering a run against her, Napolitano deployed the Arizona National Guard to the state's border with Mexico.
"She won accolades from every anti-immigrant group in the country," said Gutierrez. "Using troops was stunning, shocking."
Gutierrez drew a distinction between her deployment of soldiers and the patrols of citizen militias who were also active on the border. The Guard was not used to hunt down Mexicans.
"She read the political tea leaves, so she deployed troops, but she also limited the troops to a supporting role digging ditches," said Gutierrez.
While the Border Patrol attempted to beef up staffing, the Guard busied itself with support work that allowed the expansion of the controversial border fence that now occupies approximately 200 miles.
Still, Napolitano opposes fencing off our border, having rather famously noted that when you build a 50-foot fence, smugglers build a 51-foot ladder.
Not only did she send the Guard in to support work she did not believe in, but she also dispatched the troops shorthanded.
Last year, the Associated Press reported that the Arizona National Guard lacked more than $400 million in equipment, including some 100 trucks, tractor-trailers, forklifts, flatbed trailers, mobile tool shops, M-16 rifles, fuel tankers and radios. It deployed with 39 percent of its "mission essential" materials.
Napolitano hardly skipped a beat.
"We are still sound to deal with the kinds of natural catastrophes we're likely to experience in Arizona absent something truly unusual," said the governor in response to news reports. It was not a reassuring assessment and brought to mind the sort of double-speak made famous after Hurricane Katrina, not to mention the equipment issues that surfaced after the attacks on the World Trade Center when first-responders found their communications equipment deficient.
Between the virulent pedagogy of Hayworth and his anti-immigrant ilk and the superficial shape-shifting of Napolitano, Mexicans crossing our border remains Arizona's most volatile issue.
Since 2004, Arizona has counted a yearly average of more than 200 Mexican bodies in our deserts—people who perished on their way north. As of September of this year, the state was on track with 152 corpses.
In response to a militarized border—as well as checkpoints, fences, obstacles—the drug cartels have moved into smuggling in a big way.
They have brought violence and extortion to Arizona's cities.
Phoenix police recently reported that the Prohibition-like criminalized smuggling has also spawned 266 kidnappings for ransom and 300 home invasions within the city's immigrant community.
Police estimate that, because of fear of deportation, the actual numbers for kidnappings and home invasions could be three times higher.
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Napolitano strode onto the national stage in 1991 as a key player in the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. She prepared witness testimony on behalf of Anita Hill.
The hearings foreshadowed Napolitano's political strength of obscuring failure while rallying a constituency.
"It really did bring home how issues of women really didn't have an avenue to be heard at that time," Napolitano said of the experience.
This posturing conveniently overlooked the fact that the Thomas hearing provided an unprecedented "avenue": the United States Senate. Far from being ignored or shunted aside, the proceedings were broadcast throughout the land. The Hill allegations were, in fact, heard; Napolitano simply failed to block the ascension of Thomas.
Shortly thereafter, then-President Bill Clinton nominated Napolitano to be the United States Attorney for the state of Arizona, despite the fact that she had never prosecuted a single case.