Martha McSally

Republican U.S. Senator from Arizona

Republican Martha McSally was appointed to her U.S. senate seat following the death of John McCain in 2019. But it was only in 2018 that she ran for the other U.S. senate seat from Arizona and lost to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. Going back to her first year as a U.S. congresswoman in 2015, McSally’s views on immigration have shifted dramatically, showing how fluid the immigration debate is in this increasingly purple state.

In 2015, McSally voted against an amendment that would have ended DACA protections, saying it would be unfair to deport undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. She also released a video praising the DACA program. But as she ramped up her 2018 senate run, she removed the video from her website. She also pulled her previous support for DACA and got behind a more conservative bill that cut legal immigration, increased spending on border security, and provided indefinite stay for Dreamers but not a path to citizenship.

As a sitting U.S. senator, McSally’s record on immigration has been mixed. When President Trump issued an executive order suspending entry of foreigners from seven predominantly Muslim countries, McSally issued a statement saying that the vetting process needs an overhaul but added that she had “concerns about certain individuals being denied entry.” But she also voted against a 2019 resolution that would have rejected Trump’s use of an emergency declaration to build a border wall.

In 2020, McSally’s immigration platform will be tested as she will run against the popular Democrat Mark Kelly, whose résumé as a former astronaut and Navy captain cancels out the incumbent’s record as an Air Force colonel. An added concern: The state’s Hispanic population has tripled since 1990.



  • Border Security

    McSally has consistently backed legislation that called for more funding for border security. Most of her immigration policy positions are built around the central belief that we need stronger border security.

  • Border Wall

    During McSally’s 2018 campaign for the U.S. Senate, she ran ads promising to help the president build a border wall. She also supports the president’s use of an emergency declaration to fund construction.

  • Detention

    The senator supports increasing the amount of time that unaccompanied minors and families with children can be detained. In 2019, she introduced a bill that would provide federal reimbursement to state and local law enforcement agencies that had incurred costs for detaining immigrants.

  • Immigration Courts

    McSally co-sponsored the Securing America’s Future Act of 2018, which, among other things, limited immigration court review of custody determination to ensure detention, as opposed to bond or release based on an individual’s own recognizance. The bill also permitted immigration judges to examine evidence outside of the record of conviction in cases that “involve crimes of moral turpitude” or in cases of domestic violence.

  • Undocumented Population

    McSally supported a bill that proposed a statutory change to make being in the country without documentation a criminal offense instead of a civil offense. Such a move would place all undocumented immigrants in violation of criminal law, including those who have overstayed visas.

  • ICE

    McSally is a vocal supporter of the agency and for providing enhanced resources for it to carry out its mission. In June 2019, the senator introduced a bill that would integrate the Biometric Identification Migration Alert Program (BITMAP) into the Department of Homeland Security. BITMAP is an ICE-led program established in 2011 under President Obama. The program allows partner-country law enforcement officers to collect and share biometric and biographic data on individuals of special interest to identify those threatening to use illicit pathways to enter the United States. Upon introducing the bill, McSally said, “ICE’s BITMAP program shares valuable data from law enforcement officers in participating countries with our own law enforcement and intelligence agencies. In the last few years alone, BITMAP has identified several hundred known or suspected terrorists in addition to criminals, drug smugglers, human traffickers, murderers, child predators, and dangerous gangs like MS-13.”

  • DACA

    McSally formerly supported a pathway to citizenship for DACA enrollees. She has since amended that position to support DACA protections but no path to citizenship. She has offered no long-term strategy for dealing with this population.

  • Asylum

    The senator has advocated for changing the standards for an applicant establishing a credible fear of violence. “So many people are taking advantage of the low threshold in that initial interview. They know all they have to say is ‘I have a credible fear,’ and they’re put now into the asylum process, they’re then released into the interior of the United States. Raise the threshold in that initial interview . . . Let’s get some judges down to the border, process them in a faster time frame, so that we don’t have all these false asylum claims that are really allowing people to disappear.”

  • Central America Policy

    McSally co-sponsored the Secure and Protect Act of 2019, which requires that asylum applications from residents of the Northern Triangle be filed at refugee processing centers to be established in Central America and Mexico -- not in the U.S.

  • Visas

    McSally co-sponsored the Securing America’s Future Act of 2018, which ended the diversity lottery and revised immigrant visa allocation provisions, including family-related visas.