The three Republican candidates for the U.S. Congress in District 8 all believe the border / immigration issue is among the top three most urgent challenges they face.
Jonathan Paton, Jesse Kelly and Brian Miller shared their observations, beliefs and strategies ahead of the Aug. 24 primary. One will advance to face Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the November general election.
"We have to focus on border security," Jonathan Paton said. "We certainly need a fence."
Paton advocates for military troops along the border. Military personnel are "the only ones with the capability to dramatically decrease the violence, the feeling of being unsafe in that area."
Without manpower, "you're not going to stop people from coming in," Paton said. "Immigration is complex. Border security is not as complex."
He voted for employer sanctions in the Legislature, and for Senate Bill 1070.
"I understand that there's different things that have to happen," Paton said. "I am an all-of-the-above sort of guy."
He wants America to remain the "beacon of light" for people to come to this country … legally.
"The legal process by which you come should be made easier," Paton said. But, he cautions, "if we don't deal with these other economic issues, we won't be the beacon to the rest of the world."
"It's a disgrace we live in the wealthiest, most technologically advanced country in the history of God's great world, and we act as if we can't solve our immigration problem," Jesse Kelly said.
He wants a fence, a well-equipped Border Patrol on the border, real employer sanctions, more activist sheriffs like Maricopa County's Joe Arpaio, and laws like Senate Bill 1070. With all that, "we'll be just fine."
Kelly wants illegal residents to "return to your country or city" of origin, and "emigrate here the legal way, the proper way.
"We are that shining city on a hill," as President Ronald Reagan described America, Kelly said. "We won the lottery by being born here. I don't blame anybody for wanting to come here and experience the greatest country in the world, just come here legally."
"It's a multi-faceted problem when you understand it," Brian Miller said.
A fence may work in urbanized San Diego, Miller said, but that has "nothing to do with whether a fence works in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. I used to be a fence guy, then I did my research." Instead, he wants more Border Patrol on the border, not 50 miles away from it.
Legal immigration quotas do not keep up with the demand to enter the U.S., and would-be immigrants can have lengthy waits to enter legally, Miller said. "That's why people strap 50 pounds of marijuana onto their backs and cross into the desert."
Penalties for employers who hire illegal aliens are "certainly part of this," said Miller. "Until we understand this is an economic issue, where's the incentive to behave? There are jobs to be had in the black market of labor."
Miller said SB 1070 is "appropriate for the state in this case. … It's an unfortunate necessity," because "the federal government refuses to do anything. It's a states rights issue."
"This is the most important border district in the country," Miller said. "Our next representative should and must lead on a national scale. Let's send somebody who understands it, has a solution, and is willing to lead on it.