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Adventures in Government - Immigration Panel

Report from April 28, 2017

It's been a while since my last Adventures in Government, and not due to lack of adventures. I've got a lot of events to recap, so I'll be keeping the next few entries relatively short.

Today, I'm covering the "Immigration Crisis in Southern Arizona" forum I attended at the Tucson Jewish Community Center. I was invited to the event by a supporter named Golda Velez.

The forum featured Mayor Jonathan Rothschild as a guest speaker, and the forum was moderated by Alan Bennett, an immigration attorney.

The panelists were Ricardo Pineda Albarran from Tucson's Mexican Consulate, Maria Vianey Cardenas of Arizona's League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Bob Feinman of Humane Borders, and Francisco Salcido, a DACA recipient.

Mayor Rothschild spoke about the economic importance of immigrants and our nation's relationship with Mexico, especially for Tucson specifically. He also spoke about the importance of seeking citizenship, since becoming a citizen brings people greater financial security. The mayor has instructions on how to become a US Citizen on his website:

Alan Bennett, the immigration attorney, discussed some of the legal details of being an immigrant, particularly regarding the concept of being an asylum-seeker.  Given that many of the people traveling to the United States from Central America are fleeing violence, they may be able to make the case that they're seeking asylum in the United States. If so, the United States is legally required to help them. To determine this, the asylum-seeker is subjected to a "credible fear interview," in which an interviewer determines if the applicant has a justifiable fear of harm if they return to their home country. (One can not seek asylum simply due to a bad economy, though.)

Bob Feinman talked about the work of Humane Borders: working with the United States Border Patrol to leave water tanks out in the desert to prevent people from dying out there. They are, in short, a non-political organization, focused entirely on saving lives. There's more to say on the matter, but I learned even more about Humane Borders a few days later, so I'll go further into depth when I recount that event.

Ricardo Pineda Albarron spoke about the strong relationship Mexico has with Arizona, and the dangers of the US president's anti-Mexican rhetoric. He spoke at length about how US-Mexican trade relations were mutually beneficial, and how both countries rely on NAFTA. And, if I'm remembering correctly, he spoke a bit about how NAFTA improved US-Mexico relations, which were actually fairly poor before the deal was signed. Trade strengthens alliances as well as economies.

Maria Vianey Cardenas discussed her work in helping immigrants to become citizens. She has a hard time sometimes convincing people that becoming a citizen is worth the time and the effort, since it really is a long and tedious process.

Francisco Salcido told the story of his struggles to support his family and stay in school, holding multiple jobs and being unable to really leave or do anything else due to how much his family relies on him. He also spoke about how, since he works on the Tohono O'dham nation, he passes through checkpoints regularly, and he's stopped every single time. The agents at the checkpoint know him well, but they're still diligent. He also spoke of the fear inherent in being an immigrant in the country today, since though he's a DACA recipient, that doesn't necessarily mean he's safe from deportation. He feels like he's walking on thin ice, and it wears on him. (Which just seems to me like an unnecessary additional stress on top of the rest of his concerns...)

It was an altogether enlightening experience attending this event. I learned a lot about immigration and, more than that, I got to meet people who I'll be able to follow up with later when I have more questions about immigration issues. Maria in particular, as part of LULAC, undoubtedly has her finger on the pulse of what's most important in the realm of immigration and politics.

During this event, I met with some constituents: specifically, Mike and Megan. They're a politically active father-and-daughter team, which was pretty cool to see. Megan in particular was just a little too young to vote in the 2016 election, so she's making up for it by getting very politically active. We need more young people like that, in my opinion.

I spoke to a few more people as well. We discussed the primary, and when I expressed my hopes for a clean, relatively friendly primary season, I received some looks that suggested I shouldn't hold my breath. 

I mean, yeah, it's very likely that this primary campaign (which is already pretty crowded, especially at this stage) will get rough. I'm aware of that. However, I hope we can keep in mind that our primary goal isn't the primary--it's to beat Martha McSally in the general election. A bitter, dirty primary season will only make the general election even harder. So, as candidates, we need to all be prepared to throw our support (and our supporters) behind whoever wins the primary. Otherwise, we all lose.

Finally, before I left the event, I signed myself up for a bus tour to the US-Mexico border. I've since completed that tour, so expect a recount of that trip soon.