Tuesday's midterm election provided mixed results in Arizona with respect to immigration reform. While voters passed the anti-immigrant ballot initiatives with overwhelming majorities, the Minutemen Candidates were rejected by the electorate to represent our state.
Randy Graf, who devoted an entire page of his website to his work with the vigilante group (now taken down), was defeated by Gabrielle Giffords for the Congressional District 08 seat spanning a huge swath of Southern Arizona including hundreds of miles of the U.S/Mexico border. Giffords not only carried heavily-Democratic Pima County, as expected, but also garnered the votes of a majority of voters in Cochise County - home of the Minutemen Project.
Pima CountyAccording to Giffords' website, her position on immigration reform aligns with the bipartisan approach offered by Senators Kennedy and McCain in the Senate.
Giffords (D) - 94,434
Graf (Minuteman) - 70,386
Giffords - 16,726
Graf - 15,687
Source: AZ Secretary of State
Gabrielle Giffords has a consistent record of supporting increased security and a comprehensive approach to immigration policy. Her strong commitment to security and public safety has won her the consistent support of law enforcement, including the endorsements of the Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs (AZCOPS), the Associated Highway Patrolmen of Arizona, the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona, and the Tucson Fire Fighters Association. Her record in the legislature of providing law enforcement personnel with the equipment and funding to maximize public safety is second-to-none. Like Governor Napolitano, Senator McCain, and Congressman Grijalva, Gabrielle has supported thoughtful and reasonable approaches to the immigration crisis, including a viable guest worker program that meets our state’s economic needs.Democrats now hold both Congressional seats that span our border with our friends to the south, with Congressman Raúl Grijalva in neighboring Congressional District 07 being the other representative. It is clear that the voters who are most affected by the border policies of the U.S. government endorse a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that strikes a humane balance between enforcement, economics, and family unification. A guest worker program is a central competent to any future actions in our backyard.
Incumbent Congressman J.D. Hayworth, another Minuteman candidate, is currently trailing in the final count of votes cast in Congressional District 05 that includes north-eastern portions of the Phoenix Metro area as well as rural regions in central Arizona. His challenger, Democrat Harry Mitchell is/was a popular local figure in the Valley of the Sun as a former celebrated mayor of Tempe and State Senator. Mitchell's position on immigration reform also aligns with a comprehensive approach:
I oppose amnesty and will not support it. Still, we must deal with the millions of illegal immigrants who are already here. Catching and deporting 11 million illegal immigrants, as some have suggested, is neither realistic nor wise. I believe we should give families an opportunity to gain legal status if they pay a penalty for breaking the law, pay their taxes, learn English, and hold a job for a period of years.Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords' tough talk on immigration enforcement helped to insulate them against the hardliner attacks that were a given considering the "bullies" and extremists they faced in the election. While it certainly grated the nerves of supporters of comprehensive reform, like myself, to hear Democrats use the rhetorical language of Republicans during the campaign, it is clear that Mitchell and Giffords will support a middle-ground approach in the 110th Congress. The same could not be said if the Minutemen Candidates were given the platform.
So all-in-all it's a mixed bag when it comes to the future direction of immigration reform in Arizona. What clearly needs to change in the short-term, however, is the divisive politics of race-baiting that has been employed by the Minutemen Project, Border Guardians, and other vigilante movements. When that occurs on a wide-scale as it has recently, we all lose.