Both candidates running for office in Arizona's 3rd Congressional District see comprehensive reforms as the way to improve the nation's immigration system, but they don't agree on what that means.
Democratic incumbent Rep. Raúl Grijalva and Republican challenger Nicolas Pierson met for their second debate Wednesday night, each hoping to convince voters in the southwestern district of Arizona that they would do the best job representing the area in Washington, D.C.
The 3rd Congressional District shares 300 miles of border with Mexico, and includes the western part of the city of Tucson, Yuma, southern Phoenix suburbs.
Both candidates said comprehensive immigration reform is the solution. Here are their takes on that term:
Pierson said he has a "red, white and blue plan" which includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the country.
"The red plan would be where people can announce that they are here and there is going to be a moratorium on deportations. The white plan is where Congress will agree and pass and fund an impervious wall on the Mexico and U.S. border," Pierson said. "And three, when the wall, when the barrier, not the wall but the barrier is complete then the path to citizenship can be established so that everybody who is in our community can live here with dignity."
Grijalva said comprehensive immigration reform means looking beyond U.S. borders to find new partners for the federal government. He said the federal government cannot be the only answer.
"The fundamental issue is building capacity within the countries that are sending people and people are fleeing. Build capacity, civil society, rule of law long term," Grijalva said. "Doing that, I think, does more to alleviate the pressure on the border in terms of people wanting to come here for the reasons I mentioned. Not doing anything and waiting for a wall is not going to solve the problem."
The candidates also discussed water, specifically drought, which impacts the agricultural operations near Yuma and San Luis, Arizona.
On the eastern end of the district, Tucson Water supplies residential water using the Central Arizona Project, which is water from the Colorado River piped to the southern part of the state. At the western edge of the district, water used in Yuma comes from the Colorado River.
Grijalva said he thinks the federal government needs to take a proactive role in managing the river water as a resource many states rely on.
"The federal government needs to step in and provide guidance. The Colorado is a resource for 17 million people, countless businesses from here to Southern California and beyond, and so it is a resource that needs to be preserved," Grijalva said.
He also said he supports continuing a ban on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon to ensure water quality remains stable.
Conversely, Pierson said the federal government should not have a role in Colorado River water management.
"The water issue is a state issue that needs to be resolved between the participating states and the Central Arizona Project. I would prefer that the federal government not be involved," Pierson said.
But he said he would like the federal government to have a role in regulating water quality.
Grijalva is a national figure, one of the longest-serving Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. He uses that role often to speak in opposition to President Donald Trump's policies, and has been arrested for protesting some of those policies. When asked if those actions are a service to his district, he said they are.
"I wasn't elected to Congress to be a potted plant. I have a voice and I think that voice is representative of majority of the district and I use that voice. And to point out what Trump is doing in a variety of arenas I think is my responsibility," Grijalva said.
Pierson said that's not a good way to represent the district.
"Being effective means getting your view accepted enough so that the majority moves the ball forward. Mr. Grijalva clearly has not been effective. He's had 16 years to be effective in Congress and he is clearly ineffective in moving the ball forward," Pierson said.
The two candidates also debated weeks earlier in Phoenix, and this was their final debate, sponsored by Arizona Public Media, KJZZ and The Arizona Daily Star.