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In Arizona Senate Debate, Democrat Mark Kelly Clearly Supports Dreamers; Republican Martha McSally Clearly Supports Trump

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“The wedge has lost its edge.”

Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly could not have been more clear about supporting immediate, standalone legislation to put Dreamers on a path to citizenship during his debate against Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona yesterday. 

The debate (video), the only one scheduled in the Arizona Senate contest, witnessed odd adherence by Sen. McSally to White House talking points about China, the radical agenda of Democrats, invoking the names of Muslim women in the U.S. Congress, and invoking the specter of Mexican cartels, violence and accelerated unauthorized immigration if Dreamers are legalized.

Senator McSally was evasive about whether she was proud of her support for President Trump, but was clear about supporting the President’s border wall. In response to questions regarding the economic health of Arizona border communities – given restrictions due to COVID-19, immigration and border security – McSally repeatedly praised the President’s border wall. In addition, she repeatedly invoked the names of Reps. Rashida Talib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN), two American Muslim women serving in Congress. As for Dreamers, Sen. McSally again repeated the White House talking points that any such legislation must be paired with tradeoffs on border security that she knows are unacceptable to Democrats. 

Shorter McSally: I’m for Dreamers if relief is part of a legislative package that I know won’t pass Congress. 

Kelly was much more direct and clear. When asked directly about the continuation of the DACA program and whether it must be contingent on additional border security or enforcement, he acknowledged the need for border security but said no, DACA should not be contingent on such measures:

“We have 28,000 mostly young people in the state of Arizona who I look as American as my two kids and I think they should have a pathway to citizenship right now.

That’s something that Sen. McSally used to kind of support. She was in favor of the DACA program. Now she says it is unconstitutional, so no, I don’t think it is contingent on anything.”

The following is a statement from Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice:

My, how Arizona has changed in just a few short years. Arizona, a state infamous for anti-immigration politics, Joe Arpaio and Trump photo-ops autographing his border wall, is featuring a Democratic candidate for Senate that is leaning into immigration, leaning in to a path to citizenship without adding tradeoffs, and, by the way, leading by a large margin in the polls.

It should not come as a surprise, however. The voters in Arizona, like voters across the country, support citizenship for Dreamers and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the United States. In addition, Latino groups have organized from the ground up to make sure that racist policies of the past are met with a growing vote for immigrant justice.

Republicans like McSally made their bed, and now they must lie in it. They bend the knee to a President who ended DACA, contested relief all the way to the Supreme Court, and has a famously fragile ego and a short fuse for anyone who suggests a contrary view. McSally, once known as a McCain-style pragmatist, is now left to make wild claims about “open borders” and “radicals” and dog-whistles about Democrats from other states who happen to be American Muslims.

Immigration is an issue Republicans in Arizona have wielded for many election cycles. But now it’s becoming clear that the wedge has lost its edge. The tired attacks and the demonization of immigrants are falling on deaf ears. A multiracial majority that rejects the politics of division is blossoming in the desert.