PHOENIX — When Gov. Doug Ducey was stuck in a six-way Republican primary
one year ago, he promised to “fight back with every resource at my command” to
secure the state’s border with Mexico.
“Fencing, satellites, guardsmen, more police and prosecutors,” Ducey said in
a campaign ad.
“We’ll get this done. If Barack Obama won’t do the job,
Six months into his term, Ducey has taken a decidedly different approach to
immigration, fulfilling just a fraction of the promises he made to boost
He has punted key legal decisions on driver’s licenses and in-state
tuition for immigrants. And he has largely avoided the man who provided him a
crucial immigration-related endorsement during the primary: Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Critics said Ducey was pandering during a Republican primary at a time when
immigration fervor was running high amid a surge of migrant Central American
families and children into the U.S.
The resurgence of immigration forced
candidates to the right on an issue that has long been ripe in GOP primaries in
Ducey recently wrapped up a trip to Mexico City where he promoted the state as
a trading partner, and where talk of a hostile Arizona would have undercut his
Questioned about the lack of action on what was a key
primary issue for Republicans, Ducey said there was still time to boost security.
“We believe that a discussion around economic development, job creation,
growth and economies can happen at the same time that you’re focused on border
security and critical issues to public safety, and we intend to do both in this
administration,” Ducey said after returning from the trip.
Ducey’s office also noted that he has boosted funding for two border county
Former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith finished second to Ducey in the Republican
primary and tried to gain traction in the race by calling him out for what he
labeled disingenuous positions on immigration.
“One candidate for governor says he’ll fix illegal immigration by having our
state use satellites,” he said in an ad.
“There’s a word for promises like
In an interview, Smith said it was clear most of the GOP candidates were
pandering, and it isn’t surprising Ducey hasn’t fulfilled his promises.
“I called bull and even did a tongue-in-cheek ad because everybody was
pandering,” Smith said.
“And my comment was not so much at one person as much
as it was at the whole process, because everyone knew they were pandering. But
it obviously worked.”
Since taking office, Ducey has repeatedly stressed that Arizona is a friendly
place for businesses while avoiding the kind of immigration crackdowns that
created a negative image of the state.
In an op-ed in The Arizona Republic on July 4, Ducey implied that an improving
Mexican economy will help secure the border.
“As the Mexican people reap the benefits of free-market reforms taking place
in Mexico today, and the resulting economic growth, we can expect to see a
positive impact on security — specifically, border security,” he wrote.
Border security still looms as an issue, however. Presidential candidate Donald
Trump’s controversial comments about the border and immigrants from Mexico —
combined with a random San Francisco killing by an immigrant who was supposed to
have been deported — have revived the debate.
Arpaio’s spokeswoman said the sheriff remains confident that Ducey is
methodically working toward fulfilling his campaign promises on border issues.
Former Internet company executive Christine Jones made immigration a
significant priority and released a detailed border security plan during the GOP
primary. She stopped short of criticizing Ducey, but noted he has several
promises to keep.
“He did put an ad on television and he did assure many audiences in my
presence and the presence of other candidates that it was a priority for him
too,” Jones said.
“But he’s been busy working on getting the budget balanced
and working on trade missions to foreign countries, and apparently that was
slightly lower on his priority scale than it was for me.”