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Obama blasts Georgia bill enforcing immigration laws; Arizona reform movement losing momentum

Published: Wednesday, April 27 2011 1:18 p.m. MDT

Declaring renewed resolve to address federal immigration reform, President Barack Obama this week spoke out against Georgia for a state legislative proposal that would crack down on illegal aliens.

"It is a mistake for states to try to do this piecemeal," Obama said of Georgia's House Bill 87 Tuesday during an interview with WSB-TV. "We can't have 50 different immigration laws around the country."

The Georgia measure, which GOP Gov. Nathan Deal said he intends to sign into law, is similar to a controversial Arizona law that empowers local police to investigate immigration status. The Obama administration sued to block Arizona's law last year.

"Arizona tried this, and a federal court already struck them down," Obama said.

The president has been criticized for failing to comment on the package of immigration laws Utah legislators approved in March. Among other things, Utah's laws, which would go into effect in 2013, make it possible for illegal aliens to hold a job.

"This is hypocritical," U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said in a statement to the Associated Press. "If (the Justice Department) chooses not to take legal action against Utah's unconstitutional law, it will be clear the Administration bases their decisions on their own political views rather than constitutional principle."

In the meantime, Arizona lawmakers are losing their "appetite for confronting border woes," the Arizona City Independent reported. In the year since the state enacted a law that, among other things, enabled local police to enforce federal immigration laws, the state has been the target of numerous economic boycotts.

"Do we want to go through another round of boycotts?" asked Arizona Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix.

The state legislature axed five new immigration proposals this year, including one that would have barred illegal immigrants from public universities and another that would have required hospitals to check the immigration status of patients who lack proof of insurance.

While SB1070 is still on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality, Arizona Gov. Jam Brewer told the Associated Press the law has still accomplished what it was designed to do. The law served as a "rallying point for those of us sick and tired of hearing that our nation's border can't be secured," she said.

Under pressure from states and as a nod to Latino constituents who supported him during elections, Obama started the ball rolling on immigration reform April 19 with a meeting with prominent stakeholders. He said repeatedly last week, however, that he expects Congress to lead the way on immigration reform, Americas Society reported.

During the meeting, Obama outlined a four-point plan to address the country's immigration problems. It includes plans to ramp up border security, hold businesses accountable for contracting with undocumented workers and establish a path to citizenship for illegal aliens who pay a fine.

"There's no reason why we shouldn't be able to achieve a system that is fair, is equitable, is an economic engine for America that helps the people who are already here get acculturated, and make sure that our laws aren't being broken but we're still true to our traditions," Obama said during a Facebook-hosted, town-hall meeting April 20.

EMAIL: estuart@desnews.com

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