Yuma Sun: Senate hopeful Mark Kelly tours border, talks immigration, jobs
Democrat Mark Kelly, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Arizona, toured the border at San Luis on Friday with District4 Rep. Charlene Fernandez to get an idea about the issues he could be addressing in Congress.
The former astronaut and husband of former representative for Arizona’s 28th US House District, Gabby Giffords, is running for the U.S. Senate seat that Sen. Martha McSally currently holds. Kelly answered a few questions about what he saw as the best solutions for the problems he saw at the border. “We clearly need to upgrade this port of entry,” said Kelly. “It has an impact on agriculture. The farmers here have a right to be able to find workers, and if those workers are coming from Mexico on an H-2A visa, there needs to be a process to provide that workforce.”
For Kelly, modernizing the port of entry would improve the economy in Arizona and could serve as a way to create jobs in Yuma County simply through the improvement project itself, which he said could bring good paying jobs to San Luis. Kelly said improving the port of entry is a complicated issue tied up with other issues that are difficult to address,
like the economy and security.
“There’s issues of drugs and then wait times and then you have the commercial port of entry,” said Kelly. “$100 million a year, if not $1 billion a year, comes through that port of entry in trade. They need to be efficient, they need to be modern, they need to work.”
Kelly spoke about the way he thinks the border should work, saying that it’s important to have a secure border and a fair and efficient process for bringing in immigrants who qualify for asylum. “We need to have a border that works. We need to be able to prevent undocumented individuals from illegally crossing the border. At the same time we need to have a process where when folks seek asylum that they’re treated fairly and expeditiously. We certainly need more immigration judges at the border to handle the asylum claims,” he said.
Aside from topics related to the border, Kelly talked about what he would do to alleviate the high unemployment rate in Yuma. “How do you deal with high unemployment? You have to expand the size of the economy with companies that need employees and also expand the opportunities individuals have with new training and education.”
He highlighted the Arizona Western College campus as an example of the kind of education and training center that could help people learn skills to find employment. Kelly said that would be especially helpful to Yumans employed by the agricultural sector part of the year.
Kelly also said that if he had a workless week here in Yuma, he would spend it farming.“I’d figure out what it would be like to actually work on a farm as a farm worker,” Kelly said. “It would be cool to spend some time actually seeing what it’s like to do that job.”