Key excerpts from leading Democrats candidates when asked questions on immigration on the debate stage and campaign trail
When it comes to paid communications, Democrats’ campaigns have focused on the other concerns that are top of mind for voters as indicated by polls. However, when asked on the campaign trail or on the debate stage, Democrats have a consistent message – a message that stresses the need for both security and reform. They speak to both the need for security at the border and reform for new entries and those already settled but without a pathway to permit status.
From the Senate debate stage:
- Arizona – Mark Kelly: “Republicans just want to talk about it, complain about it, but actually not do anything about it. They just want to politicize it. We heard this tonight from my opponent, Blake Masters. He thinks he knows better than everyone about everything. When it comes to border security, I’ve been focused on this. And on immigration, yes, we need comprehensive immigration reform. We have tens of thousands, tens of thousands of Dreamers here in the state of Arizona that are as American as my own two kids. I got one daughter who lives in Tucson, my granddaughter lives in Tucson. I think of Dreamers, no different. My opponent, Blake Masters, on the other hand, he said he would never offer citizenship to Dreamers. I think it’s mean and fundamentally un-American. We need comprehensive immigration reform and in a lot of different ways. I talked with farmers and ranchers all the time, they cannot get the workforce they need under the existing visa programs. They are really struggling. You look at Yuma and the food supply issues we have had down there and the workforce issues, of legal immigration, coming across the border to work here in the state of Arizona, adding so much to our economy, but this issue gets politicized over and over again. From people like my opponent Blake Masters.”
- Pennsylvania – John Fetterman: Reiterating a point he made on the debate stage, Fetterman wrote: “Immigration is what makes America, America. The Statue of Liberty doesn’t say send us your huddled masses and throw them on a bus for a cheap political stunt. I wouldn’t have my family without immigration. We can be compassionate AND have strong borders”
- Wisconsin – Mandel Barnes: “I support immigration reform. I support a path of citizenship for Dreamers and their families. A system that treats people with respect and dignity and is not subject children to the horrors of family separation. Now I have had a chance to travel this entire state as Lieutenant Governor, one of the biggest concerns I had is that we do not have comprehensive immigration reform in this country. It makes a harder for small businesses, harder for our farmers. Everywhere I go, people agree a path to citizenship is the humane thing to do and it is a good thing for the economy… We can keep the border safe and treat people with dignity only if we have people that are serious about doing the work… This is again the Senator using fear-mongering, as I said before he is going to use it on every issue. Now, the reality is the infrastructure bill actually had provisions for border modernization but Senator Johnson couldn’t be bothered to vote for it because he didn’t even read the bill. He didn’t know what was in it. So if he is serious about solving the problem he would have taken the time to do his job. Instead, he rather play politics and make talking points. The people he is trying to make you afraid of, we are talking about people that are working here, people who are paying taxes, contributing to society, contributing to the community. People who should have a path to citizenship.”
- Iowa – Mike Franken: In the opening of the debate, Franken named immigration as a top priority for him in congress, saying: “we must fix immigration at the border, provide the necessary workforce for the jobs. Every business in Iowa needs workers. This has been a political football for way too long. I would attack this and get a comprehensive immigration plan passed.” And later, when Grassley lobbed the disingenuous open borders and fentanyl attack, Franken responded: “I do have a history in the military… Open borders and military service really doesn’t jive. I am a law and order type of individual… Regarding fentanyl coming across the border … is not being humped back by illegal people — undocumented individuals crossing the border. It’s come across in traffic and merchandising, trucks, etc. Let’s be honest about this.”
- North Carolina – Cheri Beasley: “We must secure our border and reform the system. And we can pass policies that reflect our values and keep communities safe and build a strong economy and make sure we are upholding our American values and the American dream. But let’s be clear there are some folks that should not be in this country. And so reform means we must absolutely must secure the border, but it also means that we should make available to farmers Visas so that they can have the agricultural help that they need… We must also have a clear path to citizenship for Dreamers and those who serve honorably in the military.”
- Florida – Val Demings: “We are a nation of laws, I enforced them for 27 years. The senator is living in fantasy land… We need to make sure the men and women at the borders have the resources they need. I’m a fan of boots on the ground; let’s put more boots on the ground but let’s also hire more processes so we can separate those who need to be arrested from those seeking asylum. We are a nation of laws, but we also obey the law that says people who are in trouble can seek asylum in this country.”
- Colorado – Micheal Bennett: “I was part of the gang of eight in 2013 that wrote legislation to pass. It got 68 votes. Tragically it was stopped in the House of Representatives by the Freedom Caucus and the Tea Party, but it had four elements that are important. A path to citizenship, the dream act for people — the agriculture division, the visas … $40 billion of border security, but not to build Donald Trump’s wall that Joe O’Dea supports. Instead, 21st-century border security that we developed in Iraq and Afghanistan to allow us to see every inch of the border… Immigration is so critical to economic growth. It constitutes 1/3 of our growth every year and that is why we have to fix this problem… Our asylum system is not set up for the numbers of people coming, and we have to address that not just with respect to Afghanistan but anybody seeking asylum in the U.S.”
From the gubernatorial campaign trail:
- Texas – Beto O’Rourke: Proclaiming that “safety and security at our border is at the top of my priorities,” O’Rourke hasn’t been shy about his stance. When asked by a life long Republican about the migration at the border at a community event, this was O’Rourke’s message: “This is what I am going to do as Governor. If you want to come this country, you want to join a family member. You want to work a job, you want to claim asylum or seek refuge, we want you to be able to do that, but you have to be able to do that legally. You have to do that in an orderly fashion. And we are going to make sure that we honor the laws on our side. The current Governor on the eve of that El Paso shooting where 23 of my neighbors lost their lives sent out a mailer talking about an invasion, asking Texans to defend themselves and take matters into their own hands. What if Texas elected a Governor who would work on rewriting our immigration laws to match our ideals and our values and our necessities, and the reality that we see. What if we had a Governor who wasn’t trying to scare you about someone trying to come and get you? So let’s make sure we do the right thing, safe, legal, orderly and we rewrite our laws to reflect our values.
- Arizona – Katie Hobbs: One of the few Democrats to run a television commercial on the issue, Hobbs pointed to voters to her plan with a led message that states: “let’s be clear — disingenuous attacks from Republicans are nothing more than political stunts to cover up for the fact that they haven’t done anything to address this issue for decades….It’s past time for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that addresses both our current crises and our future challenges. We need to secure our border, prevent criminals and traffickers from entering the country, and end the chaos and lawlessness we’ve watched for decades. But let’s also recognize the very real and devastating humanitarian crisis that’s at our doorstep. And no comprehensive immigration reform plan is complete without legislation to give DREAMers the stability and certainty they deserve and a path to citizenship.”
- Florida – Charlie Crist: Crist has loudly pushed back on DeSantis’ nativist stunts and defended Dreamers against attacks from the Florida GOP. And in an exchange on the debate stage, when asked about DeSantis’ flights of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Crist said: “I thought what the governor did was a horrible political stunt. We have an immigration problem. We have a problem at the border. We need to secure the border. I agree with all that. But it doesn’t mean that you use Florida taxpayer dollars to charter two jets to go to Texas and lie to people to get them onto planes and fly them up to the northern part of our country. One of them is a one-year-old baby, another is a pregnant woman, you are willing to use people like that in this case Hispanics, Venezuelans in particular, and have them as props for your political gain? That’s not the way to change policy. You can change policy and do what’s right to secure the border by having comprehensive immigration reform. That’s what I voted for in congress. When you were in congress, you would not do it. Because you want to keep this issue alive, and you wanted it as a wedge issue. It is not funny, and it’s not right. You were inhumane in how you treated these people.”