Democrat Ron Barber said border security is one of the most important issues facing the Southwest and vowed to fight for resources on that front.
During a one-hour online chat Thursday on www.azstarnet.com, the Arizona Daily Star’s website, Barber said his plans to bolster border security are based on what he has learned from meeting and talking with ranchers, business people, residents who live along the border as well as law enforcement and Border Patrol officials.
He said among the tools needed are highway checkpoints, more “boots on the ground,” technology to detect illegal crossings and the use of drones for surveillance.
He also advocated for the National Guard on the border to help the Border Patrol. He said better communications systems between law enforcement agencies are needed as well as ensuring that they are sharing information in real time. Lastly, he said better cell phone coverage in rural areas is key.
But he also made the point that something needs to be done to cut down on the job magnet that allures illegal immigrants. He said the government needs to continue to increase its enforcement of companies that knowingly hire illegal workers.
“While there has been in increase in recent years of legal action against such employers, we must do more to make it hard for employers to break the law,” Barber wrote. “I also support increasing the penalties for these illegal hires, and providing the funds to make sure that we have enough personnel to get the job done.”
Barber’s chat was the fifth and final with candidates in the Congressional District 8 special election, which was triggered by the resignation of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to focus on her recovery from being shot in the head on Jan. 8, 2011. Barber was also shot that day, once in the cheek and once in the upper leg, and suffered nerve damage in his lower left leg.
Barber entered the race with Giffords' backing and is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.
There are four candidates in the Republicans primary: Frank Antenori, Dave Sitton, Martha McSally and Jesse Kelly. Only Kelly declined to host a chat. (You can read all the chat transcripts here).
He said he did not consider himself a politician but said he decided to run for Congress to be a voice for Southern Arizona
He repeated again that he has not yet decided if he’ll run later this year in the new Congressional District 2.
“I have been encouraged by the bipartisan support I have received, and many people have asked me to run for CD2,” Barber said. “That decision will come in due course.”
He said he intends to run his campaign in a civil and respectful manner so that “we can show that robust debate on issues is possible without vitriol and demonizing.”
He said his first action in Congress would be to go across the aisle and meet his Republican colleagues, which Giffords did when she was sworn in in January 2007.
“There are many issues on which we can find agreement. In order to do so, we have to approach one another in a manner that encourages cooperation. We cannot achieve this if we are shouting at one another,” Barber said.
About Social Security, Barber said will protect Social Security and make sure it’s available to future generations.
“Millions of Americans have paid into Social Security expecting that it would be there when they retired. For many Americans, this is their only source of income in their senior years,” Barber said. “The current Social Security Trust Fund is solvent until well into the 2030s. As we look at the increase in numbers of Social Security recipients who are from the baby boom generation, we will need to make some modest adjustments to ensure its solvency far into the future. This is not unlike those adjustments that have been made in the past.”
He said he opposes proposals to phase out Social Security and replace it with a privatized system, which he said, would offer “no firm assurances of a livable income to future retirees.”
Barber was asked by one reader about his opinions about legislation sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., which would allow employers and insurers to opt out of provisions in President Obama's health-care law on moral or religious grounds, including its requirement to provide birth control for free.
“It is surprising that this issue comes up almost fifty years after women were first able to have access to contraception under their health plans,” Barber said. “Women should have the ability to make health care decisions for themselves and not be told by government or by employers how to make these most personal decisions.”