Martha McSally’s hopes at persuading voters that she’s the hard line immigration candidate Arizona has longed for in the U.S. Senate may have dwindled Wednesday evening as news of her “yes” vote on one of the largest amnesty bills in history is making it’s way through the state.
The vote, which will likely be highlighted by other conservatives in the race as an example of her shiftiness on immigration was the latest defeat for moderate Republicans attempting to save face with their progressive constituents. McSally represents the Tuscon area which is home to one of the few swing counties in a state where immigration is regarded as the hot-button issue of the midterm.
McSally was one of the few Republicans to vote in favor of the deal which President Trump half-halfheartedly backed a week after he urged Republicans not to negotiate Democrats on immigration given the likeliness of a watered down bill. The Border Security and Immigration Reform Act was defeated 121-301 drawing the line on Republicans willing to take a hard line stance on immigration and those who won’t. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, the fast-tracked legislation would have amnestied over two million individuals. Given that much of those amnestied would be outside of the scope of DACA (Deffered Action for Childhood Arrival), McSally will have a hard time convincing voters that she is tough on immigration as she did when she opposed DACA in 2015.
The inability to pass this bill, and the Goodlatte bill that was rejected last week shows just how fractured lawmakers are heading into a crucial midterm. The immigration debate has grown more and more intense since President Trump announced would allow DACA to expire, putting the responsibility on congressional leaders to achieve some sort of immigration reform. While President Trump has made it clear that an end to chain migration, border security and merit based immigration are the pillars his immigration focus– moderate Republicans have proven to be a thorn in the side of the President’s ability to achieve those objectives.
Given a that the new litmus test for whether a candidate is “pro-immigration” will likely be based on the elimination of ICE, Arizona Republicans in the race for John McCain’s senate seat are eager to make the issue the focal point of the election. Dr. Kelli Ward, who gave McCain a primary scare in 2016, is regarded as the favorite for Arizona voters wanting to curtail immigration in a state that features some of the worse consequences of illegal immigration.
The leading Democrat in the race–Kyrsten Sinema, has all but abandoned her attempts at maintaining her “centrist” label given her voting record on immigration and business regulations such as her effort to block an attempt at repealing the Obama era environmental regulations President Trump suspended back in January.
How Arizona senatorial candidates will approach immigration in the aftermath of recent congressional votes remains to be seen but immigration reform advocates FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) have already released a statement decrying the bill and it’s supporters. Their statement is below:
The 115th Congress began with a clear mandate from the American people to enhance border security, end chain migration and the visa lottery, defund sanctuary cities, mandate E-Verify, and most importantly – uphold the rule of law. With sweeping majorities in Washington, one would have expected House Republicans to fulfill this mandate by pursuing legislation that that serves and protects the national interest. Instead, Speaker Paul Ryan and his allies did the opposite – they drafted and fast-tracked one of the largest amnesties in U.S. history, which failed spectacularly today.It is FAIR’s hope that the lower chamber’s next foray into immigration reform doesn’t devolve into another amnesty-focused charade. Lawmakers should ask themselves this question going forward: Why should the American people have to accept a massive amnesty in exchange for speculative improvements in immigration enforcement?
R.C. Maxwell is the American Voice Political Action Committee’s National Coordinator. He is a Republican strategist known for using new media, online solutions, and grassroots organizing as tactics to turn districts red.