Congressional candidate Travis Grantham has spent his whole life hearing about border issues, but says when he hopped on a helicopter and took an aerial view of the U.S.-Mexico border last week it really opened his eyes to how big the problem is.
“We hear in the media and from all the talking heads that there is a fence,” Grantham said. “They are correct, there is a fence and it’s a 12-foot-high fence that goes for miles and miles but then it just ends and you can literally walk right down to the end of it. That’s something you don’t see when you travel to a border town and see the fence there.”
Grantham was offered the ride from a friend and supporter, Doug Fulton. They left from his home and flew from Douglas, Ariz. to Sierra Vista, Ariz. along the border on April 11. Grantham says seeing the border from such a broad prospective gives him a little more information to go off of as he faces border issues in the coming election. He plans to return to the border later in the month to speak with those guarding it on the ground.
The problems at the border are not lost on any of the candidates for Congressional District 9. While each is in favor of immigration reform, the steps to accomplishing that are complicated.
Andrei Cherny has dealt with immigration issues as an assistant attorney general, according to his campaign spokesman Seth Scott.
“We’re glad other candidates are beginning to educate themselves about immigration and border security issues, but these are issues Andrei has been dealing with for a long time,” Scott said. “One of the things we have to do is deal with people who are here. There must be a comprehensive and enforceable solution to our nation’s illegal immigration problem.
As a prosecutor Andrei has taken on human traffickers. He understands the security issues.”
Cherny’s campaign says building a 12-foot fence to secure the border is unrealistic and won’t solve the problem.
Vernon Parker says he spent some time down at the border while running for Congressional District 3 in 2010. Parker said he supports building a secure fence as it’s something that seems to have worked for California and Texas.
“I look at the border not just as a national security issue, because of terrorists that could walk across the border without being checked, but more importantly to me I’ve seen so many lives destroyed because of illegal drug activity,” Parker said. “We have to do something to protect our children from illegal drugs coming into this country. I’m a real advocate of doing what we can to make sure the border is safe and secure.”
Parker said while he supports building a fence he also believes more action is necessary. The right technology should be employed and the immigration system needs reform so that those who want to enter legally can do that.
Wendy Rogers is retired from a 20-year active duty U.S. Air Force career and has a master’s degree in national security studies. Rogers said she believes there is a real risk of a terrorist bringing a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon across the border, and so to her it’s a matter of national security to secure the border.
“The federal government has to step up and protect our country,” Rogers said. “This current administration has woefully fallen short in securing the border. You have to secure the border. It is absolutely doable, it is feasible, but it is not being done. Until you change the current administration in terms of how the federal government views this issue, we’ve got a problem.”
Leah Campos Schandlbauer
Leah Campos Schandlbauer has a similar point of view as a former intelligence officer.
“It’s a very real threat that we should be cognizant of,” Campos Schandlbauer said. “I’m in favor of employing heavy measures. I don’t think there’s one silver bullet that will solve our border security issues… I think some sort of comprehensive approach to security should be applied. I don’t agree that if you put up a fence or use sensors the problem is solved. I think you have to apply a healthy menu of different options and work from there.”
Once the borders are secure, Schandlbauer says we need to focus on immigration reform, especially creating a better guest worker visa program.
Schandlbauer said as an Arizona Congresswoman it would only make sense to make the border a priority.
“I think we have failed for too long, especially the politicians on the other side of the aisle,” Schapira said. “Their views on this are so myopic. I think it’s important for us to look at the broad spectrum of issues we face when it comes to immigration. It’s not just about securing the border. Of course border security is an important component to national immigration reform, but there’s a lot more that needs to be done at a federal level besides just cracking down on border security.”
Schapira said he is in favor of comprehensive immigration reform beginning with bringing those who are already in the U.S. out of the shadows and creating a stronger guest worker program.
While he’s willing to roll up his sleeves and get to work on comprehensive immigration reform, Schapira said his No. 1 priority will always be education.
Former Chandler city councilman, veteran and commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, Martin Sepulveda said he doesn’t need to take a trip to the border to understand there’s a big problem with the fence and with immigration in general. He said though he would modify McCain and Kyl’s 10-point border security plan from 2010 he believes there are some good ideas there that should be revisited.
“The first part of fixing immigration is securing the border, not just in Mexico but our northern border as well,” Sepulveda said. “I think until we do that I don’t know how credible a discussion can be.”
Sinema has led a legislative delegation tour on the border and visited with members of the border patrol many times. She supports a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that would increase border security, create a market-based solution and settle the status of undocumented workers already here.
“For far too long, the federal government has failed us when it comes to immigration,” Sinema said in a statement. “Arizona, and our nation, needs a comprehensive solution on immigration that works for workers, employers and our security.”
Sinema has fought for tougher penalties against landlords of drop houses, but she has also spent time fighting Arizona bills that she says went too far, like a bill that would not recognize “birthright” citizenship.
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