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Gazette Premium Content Immigration overload: The debate in governor races

Associated Press Updated: July 29, 2014 at 7:24 pm

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The federal government has placed as many as 30,000 minors who have crossed the border illegally with sponsors across the country this year, spurring a wide range of reactions from governors, many of whom are up for re-election this fall.

The issue has dominated gubernatorial races in some Mexican border states, like Arizona, but it has also spilled into political races in states like Maine, where Republican Gov. Paul LePage faces a tough re-election fight in a three-person battle.

Here's a look at a other examples where the debate at the southern border is making political waves in governor's races elsewhere:

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IOWA

Offering shelter to the minors sends a false signal that those entering the country illegally are welcome, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad said.

But Democratic state Sen. Jack Hatch, who's challenging Branstad, urged him to reconsider and proposed creating a group called the "Iowa Coalition of Mercy," which would examine the proper way to deal with the influx of immigrant children.

"We have never turned our back on that kind of humanitarian aid because of a political environment," he told The Des Moines Register, pointing to former GOP Gov. Robert Ray's acceptance of Southeast Asian refugees in the 1970s. "He created a legacy for us to live up to, and Gov. Branstad has fallen far short of that."

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MASSACHUSETTS

Gov. Deval Patrick's offer to temporarily house immigrant children in Massachusetts has divided the slew candidates looking to fill the departing Democrat's seat this November.

The three Democrats in the race — state Attorney General Martha Coakley, former federal health care official Donald Berwick and state Treasurer Steve Grossman — all backed the idea.

But Republican businessman Mark Fisher said that Patrick's offer "to allow law-breaking, illegal immigrants a safe harbor in Massachusetts has brought the national immigration crisis to Massachusetts in full force."

The GOP's Charlie Baker, a former Massachusetts cabinet member and onetime health care executive, also criticized the move, saying that states should help the federal government find emergency assistance, but that Massachusetts shouldn't "become the steward of financer" of those services.

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OKLAHOMA

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, among the most vocal critics of President Barack Obama on immigration, said she was given no advance notice of a plan by federal officials to use Fort Sill, a vacant barracks for U.S. Army troops, to house as many as 1,200 children, mostly teenagers from Central America who crossed the border illegally.

But Joe Dorman, the Democrat hoping to deny her a second term, countered that Fallin is trying to downplay her role in the current immigration crisis. When Fallin was in Congress, she voted for a 2008 bill that set certain protections and procedures for dealing with unaccompanied minors, said Dorman, who accused her of "attempting to dodge her part on this issue."

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CONNECTICUT

In Connecticut, the usual party lines have been turned on their ear.

Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy's rejection of a federal request to house as many as 2,000 minors at a mostly vacant state property has drawn attacks from the two Republicans hoping to challenge him this fall.

In a recent debate, GOP contender Tom Foley said that Malloy acted too quickly. State Sen. John McKinney said Malloy's decision was out of character and accused him of denying the request for political reasons, WTNH-TV reported.

"On the eve of an election he makes a political decision at the height of hypocrisy to potentially abandon these kids."

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Associated Press writers Michael Melia in Hartford, Connecticut, and Steve LeBlanc in Boston contributed to this report.

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