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Immigration: Arizona's Rep. Jeff Flake shifts support from comprehensive reform

March 23, 2011 |  6:20 pm

The Arizona Republic reported Wednesday that Rep. Jeff Flake, a longtime supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, is changing his position on the issue.

Flake is said to be revealing his new stance on his website, though it was not posted as of Wednesday evening. The Arizona paper, however, provided a preview quoting the Republican congressman as  saying the political realities in Washington "are such that a comprehensive solution is not possible or even desirable given the current leadership." He suggests border security should be the priority.

Flake's apparent change of heart coincides with a run for the Senate seat of retiring Sen. Jon Kyl.

The lawmaker should expect some tough questions from supporters of immigration reform, as well as from candidates vying for the same seat who may accuse him of flip-flopping on the issue. But his shift to enforcement first should also raise a red flag because it suggests that President Obama and the previous administration spent too little to protect the border.

Yet funding for border and internal enforcement is at an all-time high. Billions have been spent building walls and purchasing surveillance equipment. At the same time, funding for detention centers across the country also has increased exponentially.

Last year, California Watch reported that spending on immigration enforcement rose from $2 billion in 2002 to more than $20 billion in 2010. Similarly, the number of agents along the border increased from just over 3,555 in the early 1990s to more than 20,000 in 2009.

While immigration enforcement is key to protecting our borders, calls for more money ignore the reality of the problem.

Last year, a group of seven GOP senators asked federal officials how much it would cost to deport the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. As Brian Bennett reported for The Times, federal officials put the price tag at upward of $80 billion.

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Immigration, state by state

--Sandra Hernandez

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