PHOENIX (AP) - One candidate called for sending National Guard troops and to build fences on the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas to stem the tide of immigrants, and forwarding the bill to President Barack Obama.
Another candidate suggested deploying satellites to control the border. Still another participated in a demonstration in which protesters hoped to block a rumored busload of child immigrants to a small Arizona town.
The Republican race for Arizona governor, which began quietly with a focus on Medicaid, Common Core education standards and ways to boost the state’s economy, has taken an abrupt turn toward a familiar topic: immigration.
While the issue has flared up as a campaign issue in a few spots around the country since the influx of immigrants, nowhere has it been more pronounced than in Arizona because it came just as the GOP gubernatorial primary was heating up.
It’s given Republicans endless amounts of rhetoric as they court strident primary voters that are so crucial to their success. One candidate is running an ad that shows a Mexican flag superimposed over Arizona.
Never mind the fact that the flow of children into the U.S. has slowed down dramatically. About 200 Central American immigrant kids settled in Arizona, and a Nogales facility that was housing them has essentially shut down.
“The Republican primary voter (in Arizona) is a very unique animal and it is a microcosm of a caricature and it is the most sort of rabid, anti-immigration, hard-right conservative,” said Mike O'Neil, who has been doing polling in the state for 35 years.
“I think saner heads will prevail, but not necessarily right away and not necessarily in the Republican primary,” O'Neil said.
Immigration has long factored into Arizona politics.
Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, who cannot run again because of term limits, made fighting the federal government over its immigration enforcement failures a cornerstone of her tenure.
Brewer signed the state’s tough immigration crackdown law, re-igniting the immigration debate across the country.
Since then, the issue has gradually faded. The architect of the law was ousted from the state Senate in a recall. The business community recoiled. And the U.S. Supreme Court overturned key provisions.
The return of immigration in the governor’s debate is a replay of sorts from the last gubernatorial race when Brewer signed SB1070. The signing boosted her profile among Republicans and helped her win.
The six candidates vying to replace her in the Aug. 26 GOP primary quickly jumped on the issue.
Secretary of State Ken Bennett proposed the creation of a “strike force” of national guardsmen, state and local law enforcement officers to interdict cartel and gang members.