Sen. Jeff Flake spent the day in southern Arizona on Tuesday, discussing border and immigration issues with local leaders as well as members of the Border Patrol. 

He discussed his concerns about current crisis with the unaccompanied minors, his hope for meaningful immigration reform and his decision to stay out of the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary.

The state’s junior senator said one of his biggest concerns is a public perception in Central America that the risky gambit of sending children with smugglers is working, as the children are not being immediately being sent back to their country of origin.

Flake said when there was a similar crisis several years ago with refugees from Brazil, the U.S. sent undocumented immigrants back immediately. He said it stemmed the tide once word got out that the U.S. was not offering amnesty to those caught t the border.

Q: Do you think the current crisis with unaccompanied minors will add to the backlog of immigrants trying to enter the country legally?

A: Flake said it creates a number of problems, including slowing the political process to pass substantive immigration reform.

“People will say ‘well, we got to deal with these issues before we address the problem (of immigration reform.)’”

Q: There is some speculation that President Obama may act through executive order on the issue. What are your thoughts on that? 

A: Flake said he hopes Obama will work with Congress, saying the use of an executive order would muddy with waters in terms of what the actual federal immigration policy is.

“It makes broader immigration reform less likely,” Flake said.

Q: Flake was asked to weigh in on a growing number of calls to put Arizona National Guard troops back on the board.

A: While noting that previous placements of troops was shown to be effective, he said “everybody knows” what will happen if the state tries to bill the federal government for the cost.

A similar attempt by then-Gov. Janet Napolitano to make the feds pay for the cost of troops at the border was unsuccessful several years ago.

Q: With only a few weeks left for Congress after the break but before the November elections, is Flake optimistic Congress can pass immigration reform?

A: Flake said he remains optimistic that the Senate and House can pass emergency measures to address problems at the border, noting he believes there is a political will to address the issue.

“I hope we can give him the emergency funding that is needed and that authorization. I think that can be done,” Flake said.

Q: Flake was asked if he planned on making any endorsements before the Aug. 26 gubernatorial primary.

A: Flake said he hopes to avoid making an endorsement until after the primary.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson.