Gov. Doug Ducey is putting some distance between his efforts to cultivate better relations with Mexico and the rhetoric of his party’s nominee.
The governor said he agrees with the policy laid out earlier in a speech here by Donald Trump that the first step has to be securing the border. And Ducey said Trump is correct in his desire to rid the country of criminal aliens.
But the governor sidestepped the question of whether he shares the candidate’s belief that there should be no path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people in this country without documents.
And Ducey specifically said he does not believe it is necessary to actually build a physical wall along this country’s border with Mexico as Trump has promised to do if elected.
“I want to see border security,” Ducey said. But the governor said there are other ways to achieve that.
“We can use technology to do that,” he explained. “We can use border enforcement, we can use border agents to do this.”
And the governor said the state Department of Public Safety and county sheriffs also can play a role.
“I talked about that in my campaign,” Ducey said of his views of border security
“This is his campaign,” he said of Trump. “I’ll let him speak for himself.”
The governor’s comments come as he attempts to navigate a path of openly supporting the leader of his party who has taken a hard-line stance on illegal immigration even as Ducey, as the governor of a border state, is trying to promote closer relations with Mexico.
“Mexico is our No. 1 trading partner, times four,” Ducey said Friday. “My administration has worked very hard in building that relationship.”
The governor said the addition of new flights between Arizona and Sinaloa helps cement those ties.
On Wednesday, when Trump was in Phoenix — and introduced by Ducey — the candidate made clear his view on what should happen to the 11 million migrants already in this country.
“For those here today illegally who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and only one route: to return home and apply for reentry under the rules of the new legal immigration system that I have outlined,” Trump said.
“There will be no amnesty,” he continued. “Our message to the world will be this: You cannot obtain legal status, or become a citizen of the United States, by illegally entering our country.”
And does the governor agree?
“There was a policy that was laid out,” he responded. “People can debate that.”
Ducey did say he is in favor of “anything that supports border security and brings clarity to our immigration process.” But he balked when asked if that includes the lack of a path to legal status as Trump has said.
“I want to start with border security,” the governor said. “I think once you get that, then you can have this discussion in terms of public policy.”
Ducey also suggested that people need to differentiate between what he is trying to do here to foster ties with Mexico and the sometimes contradictory rhetoric on the campaign trail.
“We’re in the middle of a campaign season that’s nationally being discussed,” the governor said. “What we’ve done in Arizona has been a positive for this relationship and we’ll continue to focus on it.”