DREAM A LITTLE DREAM
President Barack Obama upended the nation's immigration debate with his announcement that his administration would, as a matter of policy, no longer seek to deport young people without proper documentation who have been brought to the United States by their parents.
To qualify for "deferred enforcement action" under the new policy, the undocumented individuals would need to have come to the United States under the age of 16; have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years; be in school, have graduated from high school, have a GED or be honorably discharged veterans of the Armed Forces; be 30 or younger; and have no criminal record.
Obama is essentially using prosecutorial discretion to temporarily implement the DREAM Act, a bit of legislation that has been languishing in Congress for years. It's not a permanent solution; the order could be overturned by a new president, although Republican Mitt Romney is being evasive about whether he would do so (although he is, of course, critical of Obama's action).
But it does bring some relief to kids who have grown up in the United States—many of whom have been here since early childhood, and have no connections to their countries of origin.
Arizona Republicans were quick to condemn the Obama administration's directive. Gov. Jan Brewer called it an "outrage."
"It doesn't take a cynic to recognize this action for what it is: blatant political pandering by a president desperate to shore up his political base," Brewer said in a statement. "Likewise, it's no coincidence all of this comes on the eve of a long-awaited decision by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding Arizona's ability to assist with the enforcement of immigration law via SB 1070. The American people are smarter than this."
Congressman Jeff Flake, who is hoping to win the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, also accused Obama of making the decision for purely political reasons.
"There is no way to view the president's announcement on immigration without concluding that it was politically motivated," Flake said on his Facebook page. "It comes just months before the election and on the heels of the administration's decision to redefine what 'operational control' means on the southern border (if we aren't achieving it, let's just redefine it). Nice diversion."
Flake's GOP opponent, Wil Cardon, took a harder line. In a statement on his website, Cardon said: "This gimmick, designed to rally Obama voters, does Arizona a huge disservice—especially those Arizonans having trouble finding jobs who will have to compete with illegal immigrants in our state's down economy."
Cardon worked in a shot at Flake, saying that the congressman "supported pro-amnesty legislation for years before his own election year flip-flop."
Flake had supported the DREAM Act and other efforts at comprehensive immigration reform in the past, but has taken a harder line, focused on more border enforcement, since announcing his Senate bid.
Richard Carmona, the Democrat who will face the winner of the GOP U.S. Senate primary, hailed Obama's new policy as "long overdue."
"This isn't amnesty," Carmona said in a statement. "These kids are in our country through no fault of their own, many of which are accomplished students and have volunteered to serve our country in the military or within local communities. I hope today's announcement serves as a building block toward the day when we finally put the politics aside, solve the problem and reform a broken immigration system."
While Republicans are complaining about Obama playing politics, Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva said that GOP lawmakers have been politicizing immigration reform to satisfy their conservative base for years. Grijalva pointed out that Republicans have been blocking the DREAM Act for years, and that Romney had threatened to veto it if he was elected president.
"The people who are harping about back-door amnesty ... are the same individuals who will fight tooth and nail to keep Congress from passing anything that resembles the DREAM Act," Grijalva said. "You can't speak out of both sides of your mouth."
Republican Martha McSally had a rough start to her campaign to unseat newly elected Democrat Ron Barber.
McSally, who hopes to win the new Congressional District 2 seat in November, lost her spokesman, Sam Stone, who resigned on Tuesday, June 19, after a Politico story reported allegations that Stone had approached the Barber campaign with advice on how to beat Republican Jesse Kelly.
McSally and Kelly weren't exactly close. McSally, a former Air Force combat pilot, made her political debut in the special election for Congressional District 8. During the primary campaign, McSally tangled with Kelly; in one debate, after Kelly said the United States had more oil than Saudi Arabia, McSally suggested that Kelly—who dropped out of college in his first year—"go back to college and get a geology degree."
Despite her lack of political experience, McSally did surprisingly well, capturing 25 percent of the vote and coming in second behind Kelly in the April primary.
But on Sunday, June 17, Politico broke a story alleging that Stone approached a Barber staffer days before the June 12 special election with some campaign advice written on the back of a business card. Stone reportedly told the Barber staffer that polling showed Barber was down by 3 percentage points, and urged them to go after Kelly on social issues, such as abortion rights.
On Tuesday morning, McSally announced that Stone was no longer with the campaign.
"Members of my campaign team are representatives of who I am, what I stand for and why I am running for Congress," McSally said in a statement. "Because of that, my communications director, Sam Stone, has resigned his position with the campaign effective immediately. Sam was a valuable member of our campaign and helped us go from zero to 25 percent in just 68 days during the special election in April. We need to reform Washington and change who we send there. The people of Arizona deserve the best from its elected leaders and candidates, and I will give it to them."
Stone, who is a regular guest on Arizona Illustrated's Political Roundtable, which I host, did not return a phone call and an email, but he told Politico that he had not shared any advice with the Barber campaign.
The Politico story has cemented the idea—mentioned in the Weekly's post-election story last week—that some members of Kelly's team thought McSally was undermining Kelly. While letting Stone go will remove the immediate distraction, McSally will have hard time convincing some members of the GOP base that she's a team player who deserves their support.
THE RACE IS ON
The Skinny mentioned last week that Jonathan Paton, the former state lawmaker who is trying to win the new Congressional District 1 seat, filed suit against one of his GOP opponents, Gaither Martin, to knock him off the ballot.
Earlier this week, Paton withdrew the suit, allowing Martin to remain on the ballot in the district, which includes Oro Valley and Marana, as well as Flagstaff, and much of rural Eastern Arizona.
Two other Republicans, Doug Wade and Patrick Gatti, are also competing in the GOP primary.
The winner of the GOP primary will face the winner of the Democratic primary, which pits former congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick against political newcomer Wenona Benally Baldenegro.