Border-State Lawmakers Looking for Distance From Leadership

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 15: New Democratic Coalition member Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ) speaks during a news conference about the impending 'fiscal cliff' and other economic issues November 15, 2012 in Washington, DC. The coalition has seven policy committees that include Critical Infrastructure and Manufacturing; Education; Energy; Financial Services; Health Care; Innovation, Competitiveness and Tax Reform; and Trade. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
National Journal
July 29, 2014, 5:59 p.m.

Wash­ing­ton’s fail­ure to ad­dress an es­cal­at­ing im­mig­ra­tion crisis is mak­ing a mess of cam­paign polit­ics for Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans alike, nowhere more so than along the bor­der, where in­cum­bent can­did­ates are des­per­ately try­ing to dis­tance them­selves from un­pop­u­lar party lead­ers.

Law­makers in both parties have struggled to stave off at­tacks from their chal­lengers. Re­pub­lic­ans have tied Demo­crats to the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fail­ure to man­age the crisis, Demo­crats have blamed Re­pub­lic­ans for put­ting off im­mig­ra­tion re­form, and in­cum­bents on both sides have claimed in­de­pend­ence from their parties.

Take Demo­crat­ic Rep. Ron Barber of Ari­zona, who is blam­ing Pres­id­ent Obama, and Re­pub­lic­an Reps. Dav­id Valadao of Cali­for­nia and Steve Pearce of New Mex­ico, who are tout­ing their sup­port for im­mig­ra­tion re­form, which the GOP-con­trolled House re­fused to con­sider.

Both parties’ ef­forts to se­cure His­pan­ic voters is af­fect­ing their im­mig­ra­tion mes­sage too, and in many cases that’s meant put­ting some day­light between their po­s­i­tions and those es­poused by lead­er­ship on the Cap­it­ol. Valadao, for ex­ample, fa­cing a chal­lenge from former con­gres­sion­al staffer Aman­da Renter­ia in a 70 per­cent His­pan­ic dis­trict, has poin­ted to his sup­port for im­mig­ra­tion re­form as Renter­ia cri­ti­cizes him for not do­ing enough.

“There’s a say­ing in Span­ish,” Renter­ia said, “which says, ‘Dime con quién an­das, y te diré quién eres,’ which means, ‘Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.’ ” In oth­er words, it’s dif­fi­cult for a Re­pub­lic­an in­cum­bent to dis­as­so­ci­ate him­self from party lead­er­ship in a dis­trict that wants re­form. Valadao co­sponsored an im­mig­ra­tion bill in March, but re­fused to sign a dis­charge pe­ti­tion to force a vote in the House, which gave Renter­ia an easy tar­get.

“Do you really want to vote on that bill, or did you just sign on be­cause you have a reelec­tion and you’re in a 70 per­cent Latino dis­trict?” Renter­ia said. “You be­gin to won­der, why didn’t he sign on to that bill for a vote?”

Pearce, an­oth­er Re­pub­lic­an in a ma­jor­ity His­pan­ic dis­trict, has done the same in his race against at­tor­ney Rox­anne “Rocky” Lara. Pearce cam­paign con­sult­ant Dan Hazel­wood even noted that Pearce didn’t vote for John Boehner for House speak­er — a re­mind­er that he can’t be blamed along with House lead­er­ship for the lack of move­ment on re­form.

But Pearce has still struggled to over­come his party’s na­tion­al im­age. The Santa Fe New Mex­ic­an quoted him say­ing he thought Cent­ral Amer­ic­an chil­dren have come to the U.S. for jobs rather than for safety, but that he rarely left his hotel while vis­it­ing Guatem­ala and Hon­dur­as — a seem­ingly hy­po­crit­ic­al state­ment that landed him in a Col­bert Re­port seg­ment. The quote was later cla­ri­fied by The New Mex­ic­an to say the group did leave their hotel, just not at night — but not be­fore the dam­age was done.

In Col­or­ado’s 6th Dis­trict, Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Mike Coff­man, who gen­er­ally took a hard­line con­ser­vat­ive stance on im­mig­ra­tion when he was first elec­ted in 2008, has gradu­ally moved to the left, but hasn’t en­tirely avoided an im­age of in­sens­it­iv­ity. He didn’t do him­self any fa­vors last week, when he sug­ges­ted that the U.S. open de­ten­tion cen­ters for mi­grants in Cent­ral Amer­ica rather than in the U.S.

Den­ver-based Demo­crat­ic con­sult­ant James Mejia ac­cused Coff­man of “vil­lain­iz­ing” im­mig­rants, but said the cri­ti­cism would be sim­il­ar if Coff­man’s op­pon­ent, former state House Speak­er An­drew Ro­man­off, were in of­fice. In the end, the cur­rent crisis has not ne­ces­sar­ily changed the de­bate over im­mig­ra­tion re­form, but it has amp­li­fied cri­ti­cism of in­cum­bents, Mejia said.

“Demo­crats have said, ‘See, look how bad this is. They won’t even talk about asylum for kids, who are fault­less,’ ” Mejia said. “And Re­pub­lic­ans are try­ing to say, ‘We were right, we can’t do everything for every­body.’ Both sides are try­ing to make a polit­ic­al point. It’s more am­muni­tion.”

What We're Following See More »
SAYS OFFER IS NOT "IN GOOD FAITH"
Pelosi Rejects Trump's Immigration Offer
4 hours ago
THE LATEST
WILL MAKE REMARKS THIS AFTERNOON
Trump to Offer DACA in Exchange for Wall Funding
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump plans to use remarks from the Diplomatic Reception Room on Saturday afternoon to propose a notable immigration compromise, according to sources familiar with the speech. The offer is expected to include Trump’s $5.7 billion demand for wall money in exchange for the BRIDGE Act — which would extend protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — and also legislation to extend the legal status of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders."

Source:
RARE STATEMENT FROM SPECIAL COUNSEL'S OFFICE
Mueller Denies BuzzFeed Report About Trump Directing Cohen to Lie
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office on Friday denied an explosive report by BuzzFeed News that his investigators had gathered evidence showing President Trump directed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about a prospective business deal in Moscow. 'BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,' said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller."

Source:
ABOUT THE BORDER
Trump to Make Announcement Saturday Afternoon
1 days ago
THE LATEST
MORE PRESSURE ON WHITE HOUSE
NY Fed Chief Says Shutdown Could Cut Growth by 1%
1 days ago
THE DETAILS
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login