Capitol Alert

California U.S. Senate candidates quarrel over illegal immigration

Immigration debate creates friction between Sundheim and Sanchez

Republican Duf Sundheim and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, jab at each other on immigration at the U.S. Senate debate at University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif. on Monday, April 25, 2016. Video courtesy of KCRA.
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Republican Duf Sundheim and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, jab at each other on immigration at the U.S. Senate debate at University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif. on Monday, April 25, 2016. Video courtesy of KCRA.

Democrats Loretta Sanchez and Kamala Harris, as they’ve campaigned for U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s seat, have time and again advocated for a federal immigration overhaul – with Sanchez calling it a “moral imperative,” and Harris arguing it’s the civil rights issue of the current age.

There was little distance between the rivals’ broader immigration policy pronouncements at Monday night’s televised debate in Stockton, but there were clear differences on the finer points.

Sanchez, a congresswoman for nearly two decades, opted for the GOP-favorite phrase “family values” to assert families with mixed immigration status should not be separated. She blames Republicans for the morass.

Harris agreed that those in the shadows need a pathway to citizenship, yet she used the question as the basis for a blanket attack on the rhetoric coming out of Washington. Harris believes “supposed leaders” wrongly conflate criminal justice policy with immigration policy.

“An undocumented immigrant is not a criminal and we have to correct course on this conversation in our country,” Harris said.

On the Republican side, it was the tenor of the debate, but also the focus on technologies, old and new, that differed from the Democrats.

Duf Sundheim, who supports providing the 11 million unauthorized immigrants living here an initial path to legal status, told debate moderators that there is a “role” for a wall along the U.S. border.

He also wants sensors, drones and “big data” to get control of entry points. The reliance on Silicon Valley didn’t sit well with Sanchez, citing her work on the Homeland Security committee. “Duf, we’ve tried the sensors and this and that. And that hasn’t worked,” she said.

Republican Ron Unz said low wages have contributed to the flow of workers into the U.S., and that a bolstered federal minimum wage could help encourage U.S. citizens to take jobs they now pass on. “Americans will take the jobs,” he said, if the the federal base wage rises to $12 an hour.

Tom Del Beccaro, the other Republican, wants to recast immigration as a matter of national security, and said the way to end the stalemate in Congress is though a piecemeal approach beginning with Visa reform where visitors who stay too long are returned to their home countries. Those that fail to return would have their assets seized. He said securing the porous border is not a question of a way, but of will.

“If there were 90,000 troops on the border from Russia we could stop them,” he said.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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