The Slatest

An Arizona Senate Candidate’s Painfully Obvious Shift on Immigration

Rep. Martha McSally, second from left, at a White House immigration roundtable earlier this year.
Rep. Martha McSally, second from left, at a White House immigration roundtable earlier this year.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Last Thursday afternoon, as the House was wrapping up its work for the week, Arizona Rep. Martha McSally asked for and received unanimous consent to remove herself as a co-sponsor of a piece of immigration legislation. The bill, introduced by Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo in March 2017, would have granted a 10-plus-year path to citizenship for certain Dreamers brought to the country at a young age. It was a more center-right version of the DREAM Act.

McSally co-sponsored the legislation on April 5, 2017, and touted that legislation for much of the year. McSally, along with other immigration (then-)moderates, signed a letter in September 2017, shortly before President Trump announced the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, calling on Speaker Paul Ryan to take up legislation addressing the issue.

“Congresswoman McSally was an early cosponsor of the Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act,” McSally’s office said in a press release accompanying the letter, “legislation that would provide three clear pathways to legal status for those currently protected under DACA: higher education, service in the armed forces, or work authorization. Additionally, she has questioned Secretary Kelly on whether or not DHS would protect the DACA holders, emphasizing their role in American society. “

But later that fall, McSally had a eureka moment that changed her entire perspective on immigration. It went as follows: Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who saw his standing among Republican primary voters collapse after clashes with President Trump, announced he wouldn’t run for reelection. Eureka! McSally thought. I should run for that Senate seat!

And so, instead of trying to win re-election in a narrowly Republican district that she captured by less than 200 votes in 2014, McSally now finds herself in a statewide primary against two anti-immigration hawks: former state Sen. Kelli Ward and recently pardoned ex–Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a couple of far-right pieces of work if ever there were. In January, she leapt at the opportunity to co-author Trump’s preferred House immigration bill, Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s Securing America’s Future Act, which offers existing DACA beneficiaries renewable legal status in exchange for every conservative demand on immigration policy.

McSally’s staff told HuffPost and the Arizona Republic, which reported late last week on McSally’s rejection of the more lenient bill that she used to love, that the congresswoman “wanted to clarify which legislative solution she backs wholeheartedly” ahead of immigration votes that might come if the discharge petition her former Republican allies are circulating gets a majority of signatures.

“Congresswoman McSally is a lead author and champion of the Securing America’s Future Act, a border security bill that fully funds the wall, cracks down on sanctuary cities and criminal illegal gangs, and addresses the DACA population,” her spokeswoman said. “The Congresswoman’s bill is the only bill in the House that President Trump and Secretary Nielsen support.”

Her rival campaigns immediately made fun of her for this, because it’s super-obvious and they should.