Here's Where Arizona's Top Elected Officials Stand on Trump's Border Wall

Building a border wall could be an economic boon for Arizona under President Donald Trump's budget proposal.  New Times looks at other winners and losers.
New Times Photo Illustration
New Times Photo Illustration

It's looking like Trump is backing down from his demand that Congress approve funding for the border wall by Friday, or else face a government shutdown.

Which raises the question: besides Trump himself, who actually wants a border wall?

We all know who doesn't want the wall: conservation groups, immigration reform advocates, and top Arizona Democrats have all loudly voiced their opposition. So have a majority of Arizona residents — though not by an overwhelming margin.

Who's actually enthusiastic about the wall is another story. Jan Brewer certainly is. Same with Paul Babeu and Joe Arpaio. But guess what all those people have in common? Their opinions don't matter anymore. And when it comes to the state's top Republicans — the ones that are actually in power — the response to Trump's plans has been significantly more muted.

We attempted to wade through the political doublespeak and figure out who will actually support the wall (or fight against it) if push comes to shove.

Here's where Arizona's top elected officials stand:

Governor Doug Ducey (Republican)

During Trump's campaign, Ducey said he didn't believe a wall was necessary.

"We can use technology to do this," he explained. "We can use border enforcement. We can use border agents to do this. We can use the Department of Public Safety. We can use county sheriffs."

Post-election, Ducey pivoted slightly: In January, he said that he supports a border wall "as long as it benefits Arizona."

"Border security benefits Arizona," he explained. "A wall in certain places certainly benefits Arizona."

But Ducey is also well aware that anything that hurts U.S.-Mexico relations will be bad news for Arizona. "I want to make sure that we also realize that Mexico is our largest trading partner — times four," he added.

Bottom line: Ducey clearly isn't enthusiastic about the wall. But the fact that his views shifted after the election suggests that we shouldn't count on him to stand up to Trump on this one.

Senator John McCain (Republican)

McCain has been critical of Trump's claims that Mexico will pay for the wall, and has also said that a wall won't be enough to secure the border.

But he hasn't come out and said that he opposes the wall altogether.

Let's not forget that during his 2010 campaign, McCain released an ad where he told then-Sheriff Paul Babeu to "complete the danged fence." (He'd prefer that you did forget it, however: last year, when his challenger Ann Kirkpatrick uploaded a copy of the ad to YouTube, the McCain campaign requested that it be removed.)

And then there's the fact that for all McCain's public criticism of Trump, he's consistently voted in line with the president's position. Five Thirty Eight currently puts his "Trump Score" at 97.1 percent.

Bottom line: McCain will probably continue to criticize specific details of Trump's plans for the border wall — namely, the uncertainty over who's going to pay for it — but there's no reason to assume that means he'll vote against it.

Senator Jeff Flake (Republican)

There weren't many bright spots for Flake at his town hall in Mesa earlier this month, but his criticism of Trump's border wall was one of them.

"The notion of a 2,000-mile wall, nobody believes that that's going to happen," he said, as the largely left-leaning crowd stood up and cheered.

"But we do need border security," he added, to considerably less fanfare.

Flake has made it clear that he'd rather see the billions of dollars that could be used for a wall spent on surveillance — specifically, drones, cameras, and more border patrol agents. 

But Organizing for Action, a progressive group that grew out of the Obama campaign, is apparently worried enough about Flake's vote that they're targeting him with Facebook ads that encourage Arizona residents to call him and voice their opposition towards funding the wall.

Bottom line: Flake's been pretty consistent in his opposition to the border wall, but he is up for re-election next year. It's still possible that he might end up changing his vote in order to please his Republican base.

Congressman Tom O'Halleran (Democrat)

O'Halleran is a former Republican, but there's no reason to think that he won't vote with the Democrats on this one. He's argued that high-tech border surveillance, not a physical barrier, is the answer. And he doesn't think that U.S. taxpayers should have to pay for a wall, either.

Bottom line: Doesn't want the wall.

Congresswoman Martha McSally (Republican)

The Hill categorizes McSally as one of the loudest GOP skeptics when it comes to funding the wall.

Not that that's saying a lot. McSally's position is basically that she has some questions about how the whole wall thing is supposed to work. She's also said that physical barriers like a wall "are important where appropriate, but only part of the equation.”

And at a town hall in February, she acknowledged that building a 2,000-mile wall probably wasn't realistic, but added that some parts of the border could use more barriers.

Bottom line: McSally isn't exactly team #NoBanNoWall, but she'll probably vote with the Democrats on this one.

Congressman Raul Grijalva (Democrat)

The dude already sued the Trump administration over the wall, and it hasn't even been built yet. What more do you want?

Bottom line: Doesn't want the wall.

Congressman Paul Gosar (Republican)

Gosar is definitely pro-fence. He writes on his website: "Security fences work and completion of a fence along our entire border with Mexico is one of my top priorities, especially as terrorists are continually trying to penetrate America through this porous border."

But is he also pro-wall? Apparently, yes: he was supportive of Trump's decision to sign an executive order allowing construction for the wall to begin. And, on his Twitter account, he's shared numerous videos from the Federation for American Immigration Reform which highlight the need to build a wall.

FAIR is recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist anti-immigrant hate group, by the way.

Bottom line: Wants the wall.

Congressman Andy Biggs (Republican)

So, Biggs was initially supportive of Trump's executive order authorizing construction of the border wall.

Since then, however, he's raised concerns about how Trump plans to make that happen. At his town hall during the congressional recess, he rambled for a while about why funding the wall through a border-adjustment tax is a bad idea. (Basically, it would make fruits and vegetables more expensive, and no one likes that.)

That same week, he said he was meeting with members of the Tohono O'odham tribe, which does not want a border wall, to see if they could find a compromise.

Biggs also was on a panel titled "If Heaven has a gate, a wall, and extreme vetting, why can't America?" at the Conservative Political Action Conference this February, so there's that.

Bottom line: Wants the wall, does not want to pay more for guacamole.

Congressman David Schweikert (Republican)

click to enlarge U.S. Representative David Schweikert of Arizona's Sixth Congressional District - STEPHEN LEMONS
U.S. Representative David Schweikert of Arizona's Sixth Congressional District
Stephen Lemons
For the most part, Schweikert has been focused on fences rather than walls. Earlier this year, he introduced the Build The Fence Act in an attempt to force the Department of Homeland Security to finish building the southern border fence in areas where it had been deemed impractical and unviable.

But apparently he won't be disappointed if he winds up with a wall instead: He's been one of a handful of GOP lawmakers trying to rustle up Democratic votes for the package that includes funding for the border wall.

Bottom line: Wants the wall.

Congressman Ruben Gallego (Democrat)

Gallego previously told New Times that the border wall is a "scam" and "a waste of money." He's also called it a "symbol of racism" aimed at Mexicans.

Bottom line: Doesn't want the wall.

Congressman Trent Franks (Republican)

Earlier this year, Franks went on CNN and was asked he can reconcile his support of the wall with the fact that he's supposedly in favor of cutting down on government spending.

“We have to measure all the costs – ancillary and otherwise – and make the best decision that we can,” he responded. "But I can suggest to you that there are national security implications here for a porous border."

What kind of national security threats are we talking about here? Well, according to Franks, the likelihood that someone might try and smuggle a nuclear weapon in a bale of marijuana.

Bottom line: Wants the wall.

Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (Democrat)

Sinema told ABC 15 yesterday that she doesn't think a wall is an effective way to keep people from crossing the border, but that she'd support spending money on things like drones and night vision cameras to monitor the border. 

Bottom line: Doesn't want the wall.
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Antonia Noori Farzan is a staff writer at New Times and an honors graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Before moving to Arizona, she worked for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.