Hispanic Republican Candidates Challenging Ed Pastor Offer Opposing Views on 1070

Categories: Election 2010


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Image: Ray Stern
Joe Penalosa says one reason he wouldn't have signed 1070 because it's not "humane."
​Two Republicans running against Democrat Ed Pastor in Congressional District 4 give voters a distinct choice between moderate and extreme right-wing views on immigration.

Once they get to the general election, neither Jose "Joe" Penalosa nor Janet Contreras probably stand a chance in the heavy-on-the-Dems district that encompasses parts of Phoenix, Laveen and Glendale.

But the outcome of Tuesday's Republican primary in the district will be another indicator showing the importance of SB1070 to conservative voters.

Contreras fully supports Arizona's tough, new anti-illegal-immigrant law.

Penalosa, a longtime Valley immigration attorney, says he would not have signed the bill into law.

Both say they are motivated primarily by the failure of Ed Pastor to do, well, just about anything of substance.

Contreras is a newcomer to conservative politics.

She's a native Californian who moved to Phoenix seven years ago and obtained a degree in computer science. A lifelong Democrat until recently, she even worked occasionally on the campaigns for Democratic politicians. She decided two years ago, during President Obama's campaign for president, to switch her allegiance to the Republican Party.

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Image: Janet Contreras' Web site
SB 1070 "may seem harsh to some," but the country can't afford millions of illegal immigrants, says Janet Contreras.
​"I realized I wasn't a Democrat. Once I sat down and saw what it really meant, I decided it didn't describe me at all," Contreras says. "Basically, you know, God, country, family -- those are things I could identity with."

SB1070 is also something she identifies with. She believe that her husband, a Mexican immigrant, is a great example of someone who immigrated the proper way.

"He carried the green card in his wallet for 30 years. He became a citizen when he decided he wanted to vote," she says.

Contreras questions the fairness of a system in which some people wait for years to come here legally, while others just jump the fence. And she questions whether the United States can afford to legalize the status of millions of illegal immigrants already here. She's not averse to using military troops to help "seal" the border.

"People who came here illegally knew they were doing something that is not right," she says. "I need people to obey the laws."

Penalosa, on the other hand, says he's committed to immigration enforcement -- but only in a "humane way."

Though he lives outside of the district in Scottsdale, Penalosa has done immigration law work in  CD4 for 20 years. He runs his law firm out of an office in the district at 200 East Mitchell Drive, near Osborn Road and Central Avenue. His father and wife are immigrants from Mexico.

"People might say, 'You're helping the so-called illegal alien,'" he says. "Well, our country is based on equity and justice."

No doubt, Penalosa has generated plenty of good will in the immigrant community through his work. He's helped the undocumented as well as legal immigrants who get caught up in minor crimes, such as smoking pot, and face the "lifetime banishment" of deportation. 

The lawyer has a number of problems with 1070, chief of which is its failure to give even a "nod" to justice and humanity. Federal statutes refer to the positive aspects of immigration, particulary in reuniting family members, he points out. He worries that, for example, 1070 makes it a crime to drive an illegal immigrant to the hospital in an emergency. He's also concerned about the racial profiling he feels would be part of enforcing 1070.

The new law makes the state look foolish to the rest of the country, has given the Republican Party a black eye, hurts tourism and is "causing people to leave the tax base, which is anti-Republican," Penalosa says. He would have sent the law back to the drawing board and involved more businesspeople and community leaders in its formation.

Penalosa is opposed to the anti-immigrant sweeps of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio because they target Hispanic-heavy neighborhoods -- another example of racial profiling. And if the United States wants to build a wall between it and Mexico, Penalosa says the government should "build it on the northern border, too and be fair."

All that being said, Penalosa does support some parts of the law, even if he thinks they'll never be put into action because of the conflicts with federal law. For instance, he believes immigrants should be required to show proper identification when stopped by authorities. And Penalosa has traditional conservative values on other issues, like abortion.

Both Republican candidates say, not surprisingly, that they've found the campaign road a bit bumpy this year.

"Fellow Hispanics will look at me and say, 'What's going on with you?'" Penalosa says.

Contreras describes how she held a "town hall" meeting at a downtown Phoenix park the weekend after Governor Brewer signed 1070 where the discussion "got a little hot."

"I allowed it get a little loud and hot at times," Contreras says of the meeting. "But in the end, we left laughing."

In this political climate, and especially in CD4, Hispanic Republicans probably couldn't get through the day without a good sense of humor.


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As inferred in the article, it really does not matter that Ed Pastor does nothing except toe the party line. Republicans in CD4 have no voice. Their vote is meaningless.

All the Democrats have to do is nominate a rancid ham & swiss on rye for the office, and it will be subsequently elected.


oh mr. penalosa just re-read and you are a Republican. But you appear to be one in name only---I think its called a Rino....


All men are created equal, however, Americans are not the ones who determine where you are born. We do offer another way, if you want that way, and that is through hard work, determination, and adherance to the laws set out for us in that beautiful document that is too often misinterpreted, not read, and not respected called the Constitution. Stealing something that you haven't earned does not instill respect or even gratitude for that which you stole. Karma always comes back to bite you, and you lose more than you stole in the process.

I am curious though, how a gentleman that lives in Scottsdale would be able to relate to the people who live in District 4. Can you not run in Scottsdale? Or would they not elect you there? I'm just curious...and it sounds to me Mr. Penalosa that you would not support your party choice in Sheriff Joe Arpaio, or in the passing of S.B. 1070. Are you not a Republican? Your party affiliation was not mentioned. I am one of the registered voters in your district and so I am interested in that....also, I know that there are many who are fed up with the lack of cohesiveness in our city and county government, and I for one sleep much better at night knowing that Sheriff Joe is watching over the citizens of Maricopa County. I know the New Times will disagree with me, and I will more than likely receive criticism for exercising my freedom of speech, but so be it. Those who attack my freedom are very willing to give up their own, obviously.

I believe Janet Contreras would be the wisest choice in this District for the residents there, as she is not tainted by the issue at hand, nor is she tainted by the unethical practices that many of our county and city officials use against the people who legally belong here. She offers a clear and concise stance that people can believe in. She speaks from her heart, not the potential growth in her wallet. I will definately get the word out and so will others I know in Maricopa County to ensure that she does in fact win. With the political climate being as it is, if she does not you can bet that whoever does win will be receiving visits of peaceful demonstration from concerned citizens bent on making sure the elected candidate does the job they are elected to do- Work for the residents in District 4, not the other way around.

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