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Flake Defends Immigration Record As Others Disapprove Flake Defends Immigration Record As Others Disapprove

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Politics / SENATE RACES

Flake Defends Immigration Record As Others Disapprove

Undocumented Mexican immigrants walk through the Sonoran Desert after illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border into Arizona.(John Moore/Getty Images)

February 16, 2011
While he didn't specifically target Flake on immigration, Hayworth offered a comment that seemed to go after him in an indirect way. "This is not in the vein of disagreeing with Jeff Flake," said Hayworth. "For those who claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility and fiscal conservatism, and yet have endorsed amnesty plans ... I think that is of great concern." Flake has been a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and in 2007, Flake helped introduce the STRIVE Act, which included a pathway to legalization for illegal immigrants, putting him at odds with some Republicans in Arizona. When asked Tuesday by Mother Jones whether measures to deal with illegal immigration should include a pathway to legalization for illegal immigrants, Flake agreed that "some mechanism" was necessary. "I've always felt that we could help secure the border faster if we have -- in addition to border security -- a legal framework for people to come here legally to work and then to return home," Flake told Hotline On Call. "But I can tell you nobody trusts the federal government to move ahead on the other elements of immigration reform until the border is more secure. And their skepticism about the federal role is justified." "I want to talk to Flake personally about that [immigration], and find out what his current stances are as far as an amnesty type program, but that would be a concern with the organization down here in Yuma," said Colorado River Tea Party chairman Russ Clark. When asked what he thought of SB 1070, the state's controversial immigration measure, Flake said the law only deals with apprehension, which is not enough. "Initially, there was an issue with the wording of 1070 -- they fixed that and rightfully so. The problem is this is a more complex problem -- this only deals with apprehension," said Flake. "We need to deal with what we do once we get them. And that's where we need a lot of work, because it's never been a real issue or a big problem apprehending those who are illegal -- it's what to do when you get them -- so it's just incomplete, I should say." "Some people consider border security to be the Berlin Wall," Flake told the Arizona Republic in July of 2010. "But when you have communities on both sides with so much interaction, a wall that never opens is not reasonable. Or desirable." The primary is still many months away, and it is difficult to discern at this early stage which issues will dominate the discussion. But concerns over immigration are likely to linger in Arizona, which could mean trouble for Flake in a GOP primary, should a hard-liner enter the race. But if spending and the economy are the dominant topics on the minds' of voters, Flake's record will likely stand apart. As a Republican who has built a reputation as a fiscal conservative and staunch opponent of earmarks, Flake's credentials will be difficult for other Republicans to undermine. "Well first and foremost, the economy. That's at the top of everybody's list," said Flake, when asked which issues he will be underscoring in his campaign. But a notable complicating factor for Flake is the fact that in Arizona many people see immigration and border security issues as intertwined with the economy. "People like [Flake] and the Club for Growth and Grover Norquist and the Goldwater Institute -- all these economic groups -- say that they're for less spending and lower taxes. But they'll just set that aside and just ignore what the illegal invasion is doing to increase spending and increase taxes," said Maricopa County GOP chair Rob Haney.
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