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Congressional District 7 Debate, PBS Arizona

During the Congressional District Seven debate Tuesday night, Independent candidate José Peñalosa announced that he has received the endorsement of Senator John McCain.

The debate was broadcasted on KAET Arizona Horizon and was moderated by the show’s host, Ted Simons. Simons spoke to Peñalosa, Democratic candidate Ruben Gallego, and Libertarian candidate Joe Cobb, about the primary issues of their campaign to represent Arizona’s 7th Congressional District.

The first and primary subject addressed was immigration, which Cobb proclaimed as the most serious subject facing him and his opponents. What with Arizona’s 7th Congressional District enveloping the city of Phoenix and Glendale, the candidates said that the immigration system has a direct impact not only on the state, but specifically the residents of the district at hand.

“Quite frankly, this has been ground zero for immigration enforcement here in central Phoenix,” Peñalosa said. “I am a practicing immigration lawyer, I’ve worked before the Department of Homeland Security and the courts, and I’ve worked with USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). I know the changes that must be done in order to have an effective system.”

However, when questioned about of the current senate bill which Senator McCain played an active role in, Peñalosa said if he was in Congress he would not vote for it.

“I would bring the bill to the floor,” said Peñalosa. “There has to be the opportunity to make amendments on that bill. Amendments that meet our national security interest and also meet the interest of our humanity and compassion for our fellow human being. It needs to be worked on and that’s what the House needs the opportunity to get done.”

Gallego, who victoriously emerged from primary elections in August and continues to lead in polls, countered and said that if he were a member of Congress he would vote for the bill.

“It’s a good compromise right now,” Gallego said. “It’s a bill that has been compromised over and over again. It’s not the best bill, but it’s what we should try to get through right now. The labor community, the business community, our clergy worked out in a bipartisan manner. Let’s get it done. Let’s pass it.”

Cobb agreed with Gallego to an extent, saying if it were up to him, he too would vote for the bill, as it, “may be the only thing we’re going to get.” However, Cobb also called comprehensive immigration reform a trap due to partisan divide.

“Some would say that the system isn’t working all that well because of the partisan divide,” Simons said to the candidates who nodded. “How would you go to Washington and change things?”

Gallego responded that in his opinion the Republicans are not going to let comprehensive immigration reform come to the floor.

“They’re not suddenly going to allow this bill to come through while the Democratic president is there to allow comprehensive immigration reform,” Gallego said. “In the meantime, what the President needs to do is to give relief to parents and family members, people that have no criminal history, and allow them–”

“Admit the truth,” Peñalosa interrupted. “You’ve been pictured at the White House with him at a Christmas dinner, while people in this community are suffering. You aren’t on the street helping them out. How are you going to look them in the face and tell them that, Mr. Gallego?”

Gallego countered that many of the people endorsing Peñalosa also support bills SB1070, the strictest anti-illegal immigration bill which stirred much controversy, and SB1062, which was called both a religious-freedom bill and an ‘anti-gay’ bill by the media.

“I work with Republicans, Democrats, and whoever,” said Peñalosa, “We’re there to find solutions, to find commonality, and get things done for the better interest of this country. I’m never going to find that perfect person that something I’d agree with him or her all the time. I have to reach out and for the betterment of this state and this nation work with other people toward the art of compromise.”

The race between Peñalosa, Cobb, and Gallego ends with the General Election, which will be held on Nov. 4, 2014.

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