The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe talks with U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake about the Gang of Eight's immigration bill. An excerpt:
What will be the hardest part of this agreement to sell or explain back home in Arizona?
I think there is a segment of the electorate who just do not believe that anyone here illegally now should ever be able to access a path to citizenship. I don’t think that’s a majority position, but it is a deeply held position by a lot of people.”
And how do you talk to them about that?
We say that it is a long and arduous path, but it is possible. I’ve always felt, even when we weren’t under the gun like this with the Gang of Eight bill, the legislation I introduced before had a path to citizenship.
I’ve always felt that if you’re going to be here for 20 or 30 years in a legal status, why not have the possibility and the opportunity and the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship? That’s what sets us apart from other countries, it’s a good thing. For me, that’s the way I put it.
I think we ought to value citizenship, we ought to value the rule of law. There’s a way to do both. We think we’ve done it in this bill. The vast majority of Americans out there believe that citizenship ought to be earned and valued and that’s what we’ve tried to respect in this bill.
So you’re hearing these concerns about the pathway to citizenship on one end. You heard at various points late last month and this month from the other end of the political spectrum upset with your votes on guns. How tricky is it to be Jeff Flake these days? You have five and a half years before you have to worry about reelection, but clearly you’ve upset parts of your state.
Yeah, in the end — well, let me back up. In the House early on, I went after earmarks and took some positions that were vehemently disagreed with. I had the Arizona Republic writing editorials and cartoons lampooning my position and it was not popular. I had a primary race and had four of the five mayors in my district coming out against me. So being lonely isn’t a foreign concept.
But in the end, if you stick it out and keep explaining — particularly when you don’t have to run every two years — then people understand. And when they understand the principles that you work on, they give you the benefit of the doubt sometimes if they don’t understand the specific vote.