California’s US Senate Candidates Call for ‘Order at the Border’

California’s US Senate Candidates Call for ‘Order at the Border’

Border Patrol agents monitor border crossings in Jacumba, Calif., on Jan. 10, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Brad Jones

Brad Jones


Updated: 2/20/2024

Three weeks ahead of Super Tuesday, four leading candidates running for one of California’s two U.S. Senate seats squared off in a second televised debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12.
U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee, Adam Schiff, and Katie Porter—all Democrats—and Republican Steve Garvey were questioned on topics including the border crisis, the economy, military aid for foreign conflicts, homelessness, and age limits for presidential races.
Co-hosts Nikki Laurenzo and Frank Buckley from “Inside California Politics” on KRON4 asked the candidates whether President Joe Biden should bypass Congress and take executive action to stem the tide of illegal immigration at the southern border.
Mr. Schiff called for “order at the border” and said President Biden is taking action to deal with the crisis. He called for federal funding for more immigration judges to process claims more quickly, so that illegal immigrants don’t have to wait years to have their asylum claims processed.
He also called for more personnel at the ports of entry to handle the surge of people coming to the United States.
“But I don’t agree with draconian solutions,” Mr. Schiff said. “I don’t agree with Mr. Garvey, who is promoting Donald Trump’s border wall. That doesn’t work. It’s ineffective. You can cut through that wall.”
He said there are limits to what President Biden can do without congressional approval, and he advocated for “comprehensive immigration reform.”
“We haven’t done it, and that’s on us in Congress,” Mr. Schiff said. “I think Democrats—because Republicans are not going to help us with this—we need to do away with the filibuster. We need to get this done ourselves.”
Mr. Garvey argued that because President Biden “opened the floodgates” and “created” the border crisis, “he should be the one to step up and close the border.”
“He should be the one that stops the infiltration of the cartels,” he said. “Let’s stop drugs. ... coming into this country from China. Let’s stop human trafficking.”
The United States already has a system in place that has worked for 100 years to provide a legal pathway for immigration, Mr. Garvey said, calling for an end to illegal immigration.
Ms. Porter said the United States should invest in creating a lawful, orderly, and humane immigration system.
“Decade after decade, politicians in Washington haven’t done that, and that is really creating the chaos and the challenges that we’re facing with our border communities,” she said.
Ms. Porter said President Biden has the executive authority to act without Congress and resolve the border crisis until immigration reform is passed.
Ms. Lee also said the president should take executive action but blamed Trump-era policies for the border crisis.
“We will not have border security until we have comprehensive immigration reform. There are still some policies in place which Donald Trump actually had put into place when he was president. Those need to go,” she said.
Of the four top candidates, Mr. Schiff leads the March 5 primary race with 25 percent support among likely voters. Ms. Porter and Mr. Garvey are tied for second place with 15 percent each, and Ms. Lee is in fourth place with 7 percent, according to a survey by the University of Southern California, California State University–Long Beach, and Cal Poly Pomona from Jan. 21 to Jan. 29.
The poll also shows that other candidates, such as Republicans Eric Early and James Bradley, are at or near 1 percent or less. It indicates that 52 percent of likely California voters—10 percent less than in 2020—support President Joe Biden, with former President Donald Trump at 25 percent.
An earlier survey, conducted Jan. 4 to Jan. 8 by Berkeley IGS Poll, showed Mr. Schiff at 21 percent, Ms. Porter at 17 percent, Mr. Garvey at 13 percent, and Ms. Lee at 9 percent, with 21 percent of all likely voters undecided, according to polling data compiled by CalMatters.
As of Feb. 12, Mr. Schiff had raised about $14.6 million in campaign funds, compared to Ms. Porter’s $6.59 million, Ms. Lee’s $3.35 million, Mr. Garvey’s $294,000, and Mr. Early’s $179,000, according to Open Societies data compiled by CalMatters.
Democrat U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, U.S. Senate candidate, speaks during a debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2024. (KRON4/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Democrat U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, U.S. Senate candidate, speaks during a debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2024. (KRON4/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

The Economy

Ms. Laurenzo, referring to a recent NexStar Emerson College poll reporting that 28 percent of Californians believe that the economy is the top election issue, asked Ms. Porter what she plans to do about the high cost of living in the state.
“You said wealth inequality is hurting millions of Californians, calling it a malfunction of capitalism. So we are wondering tonight, at what income level does wealth inequality begin?” Ms. Laurenzo asked. “And, you’ve laid out a plan for people below that, but what can people who are above that level expect from you?”
Ms. Porter replied that when it comes to wealth inequality, “there is no magic line,” but “it’s the gap that is the problem.”
Billionaires get tax breaks while families continue to struggle to make ends meet, she said.
Touting a recently released 10-point plan to address housing costs, Ms. Porter said the issue is personal because her own children are questioning whether they’re going to be able to live in California when they graduate from high school because of the high cost of living.
Ms. Laurenzo also questioned Ms. Lee about her support for a $50 minimum wage.
“Both of your Democratic opponents are calling for a minimum wage between $20 and $25 an hour. You’re calling for a $50-an-hour federal minimum wage. That’s seven times the current national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Can you explain how that would be economically sustainable for small businesses?” she asked.
Ms. Lee replied that workers in the San Francisco Bay area aren’t being paid a living wage, claiming that, according to recent reports, $127,000 per year is barely enough for a family of four to get by.
“Just do the math,” she said.
Mr. Garvey pointed out that California has already raised the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $20 per hour, effective April 1, noting that the move will increase the price of food for hardworking Californians.
He said regulations stifle the opportunity to grow the housing industry and that returning to a system of free-market capitalism and supply and demand would cut back inflation.
However, he said, “minimum wage is where it is and should be.”
Democrat U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, U.S. Senate candidate, speaks during a debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2024. (KRON4/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Democrat U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, U.S. Senate candidate, speaks during a debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2024. (KRON4/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

High Crime

Despite widely reported increases in violent crime, retail theft, and smash-and-grab robberies in California cities, all three Democratic candidates denied that progressive policies are to blame.
With Oakland taking center stage in the crime conversation, where companies such as Kaiser Permanente are urging employees not to eat lunch outdoors because it isn’t safe and the state is deploying a surge of California Highway Patrol officers to crack down on crime, Ms. Lee, who represents Oakland, was asked if “progressive reforms” had gone too far.
“No,” Ms. Lee said flatly, when pressed for an answer.
“Enhanced sentences don’t reduce crime. Everyone wants public safety. Everyone wants their children safe. Everyone wants their community safe. And I’m very pleased that the city of Oakland and the state of California and the county, all of us have come together to try to make sure that we enhance public safety and reduce crime.”
She called for increased federal funding for violence prevention programs and blamed guns for the underlying cause of crime.
“We’ve got to get these AK-47s, ghost guns, and assault weapons off the streets of California, off the streets of Oakland. We need national gun control measures. We have to reinstitute the assault weapons ban,” Ms. Lee said.
Mr. Schiff defended Proposition 47—a law that was widely opposed by law enforcement agencies because it reduced penalties for some thefts from felonies to misdemeanors—saying the surge in smash-and-grab robberies and organized retail shoplifting rings “is not a result of the ballot proposition.”
“The data just doesn’t show that, so I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this is a result of the ballot measure. We should have a data-driven approach and the data doesn’t support that conclusion,” he said.
Ms. Porter said more “federal resources” are needed to combat organized crime behind high-value retail thefts and transnational crime syndicates pushing fentanyl.
“I don’t think we should return to the so-called tough-on-crime policies of the 1990s. They resulted in terrible racial discrimination and set back communities of color for generations,” she said.
When questioned about his stance on an assault weapons ban, Mr. Garvey denied claims that he supports it.
“I do believe in the Constitution. I believe in the Second Amendment. I think it’s been tried and tested,” he said. “I think what’s important are background checks to continue to be diligent in terms of making sure that guns are in the hands of people that are qualified and capable.”
Mr. Garvey blamed progressive district attorneys and his “career politician” opponents for “rampant” crime.
“It’s been on their watch. They’re responsible,” he said.
Democrat U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, U.S. Senate candidate, speaks during a debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2024. (KRON4/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Democrat U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, U.S. Senate candidate, speaks during a debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2024. (KRON4/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Other Issues

When asked about the White House pushing for $75 billion in military aid for Israel and Ukraine, none of the candidates supported a cap on how much the United States spends in the two embattled countries, but they all called for more accountability and oversight over how the tax dollars were being spent. Ms. Porter also called for support for Taiwan to protect freedom, democracy, and human rights.
In light of polls exploring whether there should be age limits on presidential candidates, all four candidates said that whether a candidate is fit for office should be decided by voters.
During the one-hour debate, the three Democratic candidates also took every opportunity to criticize former President Trump, accusing him of “insurrection” and suggesting that the former president be banned from the ballot.
“I hope the Supreme Court will decide that question and not try to punt that question,” Mr. Schiff said. “The gravest threat that we have to our democracy is Donald Trump.”
Mr. Garvey responded, “No sir. The greatest single threat to democracy is deconstruction of the Constitution, packing the court, doing away with the filibuster. These are things that deconstruct democracy, and you have been an advocate of this.”
Mr. Schiff fired back, accusing President Trump of stacking the Supreme Court, thus orchestrating the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
During the last debate on Jan. 22, all three leading Democrats tried to depict Mr. Garvey as a Make America Great Again Republican despite Mr. Garvey’s efforts to position himself as a moderate conservative. His political opponents hurled a barrage of baseball analogies mocking Mr. Garvey, a former first baseman with the L.A. Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
Republican Steve Garvey, U.S. Senate candidate, speaks during a debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2024. (KRON4/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Republican Steve Garvey, U.S. Senate candidate, speaks during a debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2024. (KRON4/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Other Voices

Three pro-Trump candidates, Sharleta Bassett, Mr. Bradley, and Mr. Early, told The Epoch Times in interviews after the debate that Mr. Garvey doesn’t represent the majority of California Republicans, two-thirds of whom have voiced their support for President Trump in the presidential race.
Mr. Early, an attorney and business owner based in Los Angeles County, said the top three election issues are immigration, inflation, and indoctrination.
Overall, he said, the debate was “a joke.”
“Our nation has been invaded by somewhere between 7 million and 14 million illegal immigrants since Joe Biden came into office. ... These are not people coming to America, like the old days, want to assimilate, learn the language, be part of our culture,” Mr. Early said. “It’s like we have different countries now living within our country.”
Regarding inflation, he said Americans are being crushed financially with the cost of food, gas, utilities, mortgages, and rents “gone through the roof.”
“We can do a few things right away to start bringing down the cost of living for all Americans,” Mr. Early said. “We need to start drilling again. We need to support our fossil fuel industry. ... Once we become energy independent, again, we can start selling our natural gas and oil to our allies.”
He criticized Mr. Garvey, calling him “a complete rookie” and called the Democrat trio “widgets” with the “exact” same positions on issues.
“Their fingerprints are all over this mess that we’re living with now in America and in California,” Mr. Early said.
Ms. Bassett, former mayor of Biggs, California, about 65 miles north of Sacramento in Butte County, described Mr. Schiff’s antics in the debate as “disgraceful.”
“Adam Schiff has violated his oath of office so many times, not only as an attorney ... but he’s violated his oath of office because he has not defended our country against enemies, foreign and domestic,” she said. “He talks about the ‘[Jan. 6] insurrection.’ He was on that committee. He came out, and he blatantly lied to the American people, and then they destroyed the documents. He’s never ever fessed up to the Russia Gate collusion.
“I stand 100 percent behind President Trump, and I stand behind Agenda 47.”
The pro-life candidate said the top three election issues are the border crisis, human trafficking, and abortion.
“Closing the border is No. 1,” she said.
Ms. Bassett criticized the Democratic candidates for not taking a tougher stance on the border crisis and failing to oppose free health care for illegal immigrants when the state is facing a massive budget deficit.
“That’s just unbelievable. How can you not expect to have a shortage of housing? Our public schools are overloaded, and then give away more money that we do not have,” she said.
California’s big cities are notorious for human trafficking, according to Ms. Bassett.
“They talk about a woman’s right, but what about an innocent child’s life?” she asked. “They’re watching children disappear in the United States.”
Mr. Bradley, an Orange County-based former noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard—now a commander in the Coast Guard Auxiliary—who has been at the border, off and on, for the past three months, said the top three issues are the border crisis, homelessness, and “the endless funding of Ukraine.”
While the Biden administration claims that the surge at the southern border is a humanitarian crisis, unvetted military-age illegal immigrants are posing a national security threat, he said.
“They’re using our tax funds to go to this crisis while we’re pushing disabled veterans on the street,” Mr. Bradley said. “They’re not supporting the citizens of California and the nation.”
He accused the Biden administration of trying to “repurpose” U.S. Border Patrol agents and turn them into immigration processing clerks who, he said, should be “actually defending the border.”
Mr. Bradley said billions of dollars have been wasted on failed housing projects in what has become “California’s homeless industrial complex” while the homeless population continues to grow.
He said “solutions” were missing from the debate, which he said was “more of the same, different day.”
Mr. Bradley said the greatest highlight of the debate was “the end.”
A total of 30 candidates are running in both the full-term and partial-term elections, with 27 candidates running for the full term, according to the California secretary of state’s office. But, under the state’s “open” or “jungle” primary system, only the top two candidates—regardless of party—will appear on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.
In the state’s March 5 primaries, voters have a choice of voting for senator twice, once for the full, six-year Senate term and once in a special election to fill the remainder of late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s term.
Brad Jones

Brad Jones


Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.

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