What Democrats running for Arizona governor say they would do at the border if elected

Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Col. Heston Silbert said he was moved by a hug from a young migrant boy during a press conference held near the border in Yuma on. The child walked up to Silbert and embraced him in the middle of the news conference./ /Twitter Photo/@DougDucey

By Stacey Barchenger | Arizona Republic

Democratic candidates for Arizona governor say they will offer a less-politicized approach to immigration and the state’s southern border than their Republican contenders if they are chosen to lead the state.

While Republican candidates are pledging to blow up tunnels and arm soldiers to take on tasks reserved for federal agents, their Democratic counterparts say their role is to work with the federal government for immigration reform. They offered ideas to support local law enforcement and community service organizations, too.

Immigration is a top issue for Arizona voters, and the politics of the issue are heightened ahead of this year’s midterm election as Democrats deal with the fallout of the Biden administration’s controversial quest to lift Title 42, a public health policy that allowed the nation to turn away 1.7 million migrants due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Ruling blocking the repeal of Title 42 divides Arizona politicians, communities

The Democratic candidates for governor are Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman and former Nogales Mayor Marco Lopez.

The Grand Canyon State’s 1.3 million Democrats — roughly a third of registered voters — will pick their candidate on Aug. 2, who will go on to face a Republican challenger in the November general election. Gov. Doug Ducey, who is in his second term in office, cannot run again and ends his run tenure as Arizona’s 23rd governor in January 2023.

Hobbs, Lopez and Lieberman all say the role of a governor is to advocate for reform at the federal level. They also all said the federal government should fully reimplement the Obama-era immigration program that allowed young people who came to the United States illegally as children to avoid deportation if they met certain requirements, known as the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

These are their plans, should they get elected, on issues related to immigration and the state’s 373-mile southern border.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is a Democratic candidate for governor.

Hobbs was already hit with political fallout on immigration-related issues, and deep pocketed conservative groups are pledging to make sure voters keep hearing about it.

When Dennis Welch, political editor for Arizona’s Family stations, asked Hobbs a yes or no question —  whether she supported ending Title 42 — Hobbs said simply, “Title 42 is not working.” 

Weeks later, following criticism from Republicans, she repeated that it wasn’t working in a released statement but added that “lifting Title 42 without a clear plan to secure our border would be a disaster.” She urged President Joe Biden to reverse his “rash decision and finally commit the necessary resources to end the chaos at our border.” 

Multiple committees that seek to elect Republicans immediately seized on Hobbs’ statements, portraying her as weak at the border and ill prepared to lead the state when border crossings are at a peak and could increase. This month, the Republican Governors Association’s political action arm debuted an ad attacking Hobbs on the issue.

In a later interview with The Arizona Republic, Hobbs said the Biden administration should end Title 42 only with a plan in place to address the influx of migrants, striking the approach championed by swing-state Democratic U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly. She also brushed aside Republican criticism that is sure to continue for the months ahead of the election.

“It’s ridiculous that we are talking about this as a core issue in the governor’s race,” Hobbs said. “I could stand here and say, ‘Build the wall,’ and they’re gonna call me open borders. It really doesn’t matter what I say for the Republicans, they’re going to just misconstrue everything.”

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