One of the biggest issues facing the Coachella Valley and the 36th Congressional District is immigration, said Dan Ball, one of three Republicans challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz in the 2018 mid-term elections.

The decades-long, hotly-debated issue could easily be resolved if only existing laws were enforced, the 42-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran and former television anchor said in a recent interview.

He is looking to represent the 36th Congressional District, which covers a wide swath of the southeastern portion of the state. Under its umbrella is most of Riverside County, including the area from Hemet to Blythe. It also includes the desert communities of Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indio, Coachella, Rancho Mirage, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells and Cathedral City.

Ball said he recently met with several people, including a Caucasian, a Latino and two Vietnam veterans who were Mexican-American. As he listened, the conversation turned to them complaining about immigration, Ball said, so he pressed them for their biggest “gripe” about it.

One explained that he is in the United States legally, Ball said. But, the man told Ball, his illegal brothers and sisters are entering this country to take jobs for less than he is willing to accept, which drives down his salary.

“Somebody’s got to crack down on these employers for hiring them, and then we’ve got to do something,” the man reportedly told Ball. “I don’t want to keep my brothers and sisters out, but they got to go to the back of the line, they got to pay taxes, pay a fine, something like I did because my family did it properly.”

The issue of illegal immigration is upsetting to Mexican-Americans, Ball said, adding that no one really seems to hear that or acknowledge it.

Dan Ball

(Photo Courtesy of Dan Ball for Congress)

“People think that this is a whole divide between white and brown, or white and black. It’s not. It’s a divide between the working class and illegal. Period,” Ball said. “It’s not undocumented workers. It’s illegal … Nobody wants to say the word illegal- aliens. That’s what it is. I’m sorry.”

Most Mexican-Americans that live in this district are here legally, he said. They are “working their tail off” to provide for their family and they don’t like illegal immigration because it hurts their chances to make more money.

“We’ve got to start penalizing employers who are hiring illegal aliens,” Ball said. “Then, we need to incentivize, not punish, the people that are here illegally to want to become legal. “We need to find a pathway that is righteous for the people who have already been waiting in line. You can’t be saying, ‘Oh, you’re illegal, we’ll put you to the front.’ No. No. No. You’re going to have to go to the back. You’re going to need to pay some fines. You’re going to have to follow the rules, get in line, and pay your fees to become a citizen. Period.”

There are no free rides, Ball said. Most people just want legal, sound immigration.

“If we enforce the laws on the books right now, we wouldn’t have to create brand new legislation for immigration. We’ve been talking about it,” Ball said shaking his head in exasperation. “Go back and look, 1980. Then-gubernatorial candidate Reagan versus Bush I in a primary debate, talked about a compassionate way to solve the immigration problem. They were both talking about it in 1980.”

Former President Bill Clinton talked about it in a State of the Union speech in 1996, Ball said. And Former President Barack Obama also discussed it.

“Of course, we changed the terminology because back then, Clinton and Reagan and Bush were saying illegal alien. Then, about the end of Clinton Obama time, we changed to undocumented workers to be politically correct, but we’ve been talking about this since the ’70s. So, it’s been broken for 40 years. Why don’t we enforce the laws on the books?” he said as his voice began to rise.

When it comes to The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly referred to as DACA, Ball said, “You can’t hold children responsible for their parents’ illegal actions.”

DACA was an immigration policy that allowed some individuals who entered the country as minors, and had either entered or remained in the country illegally, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation. They could also be eligible for a work permit. As of 2017, approximately 800,000 individuals were enrolled in the program created by DACA. The Obama Administration created the policy in June 2012; the Trump administration rescinded it in September 2017.

“We’re not going to go kick out 800,000 children because their parents broke the law,” Ball said. “Plus, we don’t have — I was just talking with (Riverside County) Sheriff Stan Sniff yesterday – the police force to do this. Are you kidding me? His sheriff’s department is bleeding at the seams for cash because they were stripped and raped of cash from the county and from the state. They’re hurting.”

Ball’s challengers Kimberlin Brown Pelzer and Stephan Wolkowicz have not returned phone calls.