August 28, 2018

Candidate Q&A: Janice Arnold-Jones, 1st Congressional District candidate

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Janice Arnold-Jones

Editor’s note: This week, NM Political Report will publish Q&As with candidates for U.S. House, U.S. Senate and governor about their policy platforms regarding a range of topics, including abortion, contraception, LGBTQ issues and domestic violence.

For links to all of our stories, see here

The following is from a Q&A with Janice Arnold-Jones, the Republican nominee in the 1st Congressional District.

NMPR: If elected, how will your beliefs about the separation between government and religion guide your work in Congress?

Janice Arnold-Jones: My beliefs about separation between religion and government are guided by the [U.S.] Constitution. The Constitution says that it will not preclude religion. It doesn’t say prevent, it doesn’t say [religion] shouldn’t shape your views, but the government should never impose a religion. There’s a big difference.

Do I have religious values? Absolutely. Do I have Constitutional values? Absolutely.

NMPR: Is healthcare a human right? Why or why not?

Janice Arnold-Jones: I’m very specific about what is a right. A right is something no government can give you. If it is a right, it can’t be taken away. If we do Medicare-for-all, I guarantee you, some of your stuff will be taken away, that’s the only way to do it. So I do not view it as a right. Do I view it as important? Absolutely. But if can be taken away, it can’t be a right.

NMPR: If elected, can you describe what measures you would take, if any, to ensure contraception is easily accessible to anyone who needs it?

Janice Arnold-Jones: That assumes contraception is not accessible. I don’t share that assumption. … If you’re talking about birth control pills, if you’re absolutely homeless or receiving a disability check, you might not be able to afford contraception. However, do we have free clinics, do we have alternatives, and easily available condoms? If you decide to have an IUD, which requires a procedure, then you may be limited.

… I’m a fan of contraception. I think that if you’re not ready for a family, contraception is important. I think that before you engage in contraception, you [should] think very carefully what you are doing with your body. As a woman, I think that is incredibly important, because the last thing we need to do is share sexually transmitted diseases.

… I’m not a fan of Plan B being available for 12-year-olds, off-the-shelf, partly because those are very strong drugs, and if the parents don’t know, it’s a problem, because drug interactions can be quite fierce. …

NMPR: What measures would you take, if any, to ensure that abortion is legal, safe and accessible?

Janice Arnold-Jones: You probably know that I am pro-life. Do I believe that there are occasions for abortion? Yes. Under the current law, it is limited to the first trimester, dependent on the state that you’re in. Do I think that late-term abortion, especially in last trimester, is abhorrent? I do.

I don’t see that we will ever make it illegal, because there are procedures required to save the life of the mother. I would not make those decisions, but I would never preclude the medical community and the woman from having access to it. But I do not think we should use abortion as birth control. I think that is just awful.

NMPR: Please describe how an LGBTQ person in your life has affected your worldview.

Janice Arnold-Jones: With all respect, I’m not sure that it affected my worldview. There are many [people] with all the letters in my life, and they’re my friends, they’re the same as you and me. … But if we only focus on your choice of your designated sexuality, we’re probably not having a conversation, because that’s not where I come from. … You probably know that my brother died of AIDS, in the early wave. He was a very smart, very entertaining person. … And it was awful at the end. … But his choice didn’t affect my lifestyle. … It used to be that friends could not visit him in the hospital. This was in the 80s. That is no longer true, and I was part of that fight. … Don’t get me wrong, we all have exceptionalities that make our lives challenging, but it doesn’t change my view of you as a valuable person.

NMPR: What are your priorities when it comes to addressing needs and concerns of LGBTQ people, including those in rural and tribal communities?

Janice Arnold-Jones: The only issues that have really come across my desk are two things. First of all, in tribal communities, alternate lifestyles from outside their culture are generally not accepted. It is not for me to go to tribal communities, and say, ‘Change your standards.’ That is not appropriate. However, there is another issue, and that is healthcare. Indian Health Services is particularly bad about this, and I’m aware there are health facilities that are reticent to treat and do not understand the needs.

… The risk in the LGTBQ community for STDs is significantly higher. … But I can’t really speak to what should be done. Should doctors and staff be more sensitive? Of course they should. Am I going to legislate that? Probably not.

NMPR: What is your stance regarding proposals to enact federal work requirements for SNAP, subsidized housing and other public assistance programs?

Janice Arnold-Jones: I coached [youth soccer] for a long time, … and I loved it. When we first started, there were lots of things I did as a young coach that were very foolish. What we learned is that when we gave 100-percent free scholarships, we had kids who didn’t care and parents who didn’t show up. They were not invested. … My answer is that, yes, I think that some commitment is appropriate, be it volunteering, be it going to school.

… But there is another side to this too, a real bugaboo that I have. When we talk about individuals who need that real hand-up—and that’s what WIC and SNAP and subsidized housing are—there are two things I will work on. … The way it is now, we systematically remove fathers from those households. I think that’s wrong. And I’m not talking about when you have things like domestic abuse, I’m talking about intact families. Fathers because of their gender should not be eliminated.

The other problem we have are these bright-line limits. If you are in those programs and you are starting to do better, all of a sudden you have an instant drop in income and you are prohibited from saving enough money to stay out [of public assistance]. I think that’s stupid. … All of us need a hand-up sometimes, but we should do it in such a way that the hand-up is a real hand-up, a one-time incidence, and that you are allowed and encouraged to stand on your own. Right now our laws are exactly backwards.

NMPR: What is your stance regarding the Republican tax bill that includes major cuts to food assistance and a provision to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a key part of the ACA, that will go into effect with the tax bill next year?

Janice Arnold-Jones: I’m a tax wonk. I would call this tax improvement, not tax reform. Sometimes when you pass bills, you will take the good with the bad. I am thrilled that the individual mandate has been removed. I do not believe the ACA was appropriate. I think insurance companies so significantly benefited, at the expense of people who were trying to do it right. If you were on the bronze plan, you know very well the monthly fee was about $800. I believe the deductible was $6000. For my kids, that means, ‘Don’t get sick.’ Before the bill passed, I actually read the ACA. That is 21 different taxes and very little medical care in there. It was a tax program.

I am thrilled with the simplification of the standard deduction and the doubling of it. I think simplification and the reduction of paperwork for the IRS is a good thing. That is money in people’s pockets. If they had accomplished only a reduction of corporate taxation and the cost to repatriate capital, I would still call that a win, because I’ve been working on that for years. We have the highest rate of corporate taxation of any country in the world, and the cost to repatriate capital meant that companies like Apple were holding their earnings overseas.

Are there downsides? Of course there are. We’re not finished, because what is still lying on the table is the balance of the ACA.

NMPR: What is your agenda for helping combat our state’s and our nation’s high prevalence of substance abuse disorders?

Janice Arnold-Jones: Right now, I’m truly working around the edges. This is a huge problem. We have generational addiction. When I ran [for this office] in 2010, I got called to a meeting in Española and was introduced to grandparents who were selling drugs to their grandkids so they had a market. … I don’t know what the root cause is. Are we too gentle on ourselves? I don’t know, but I do know that what we’re doing is not right.

Arresting people and putting them in a criminal population, for drug addiction, is not helpful and not safe. Putting people in detox for 30 days is ineffective. Then we have individuals who are not ready for help but are on the street, and they are the greatest producers of property crime. …

Here’s one possible solution: We have an empty prison in Estancia. It has 200 beds, individual cells. I think we ought to—and I intend to pursue this—find federal, state and local dollars so that we have a long-term addiction treatment facility outside of Albuquerque, because you need to have distance, you do. If someone is arrested and the judge says, ‘You look like you’re addicted,’ they can self-refer for a stay until they’re able to be clean. Does that get to the root causes? Until we get to root causes, all we can do is treat the symptoms.

Now, there is one other side: our border issues and our smuggling issues. I’ve talked to the Mexican consulate in [the state of] Chihuahua. There’s an attorney general there, and I can remember him literally yelling at me that if it wasn’t for our demand for drugs, they would not be having the issues they were having. It’s a two-sided thing. Securing our borders to severely reduce the drug traffic is really important. And … I understand that with new technology, the next onslaught [of drugs] will be via drones. We’ve got to be ready for it.

NMPR: If elected, what will you do to address the high numbers of families affected by incarceration, including rising numbers of women?

Janice Arnold-Jones: … Understand that when people are incarcerated, their families are also incarcerated. I’m well aware of that. Oftentimes if the father gets arrested, it means that a mother may have absolutely no cash, just like that. Do I have an instant program? I don’t.

The standard sentencing as we’ve done it, I don’t think that has helped us. When somebody is incarcerated for a misdemeanor the same length of time as someone who has committed great bodily harm, I have problems with that. Do I have all of the answers? I don’t. But I don’t think that keeping people jailed for misdemeanor drug charges is helpful. I also do not think that it is helpful in the general [prison] population to house people who are clearly mentally ill. We have no [other] facilities, so we’re going to have to look at that.

The fact that we have women who are—I was just looking on the numbers the other day—and I think their incarceration is almost entirely due to drugs. The other piece I want to make very clear, and we must talk about: We have got to decide if we believe in our Constitution, and our Constitution says that if your debt [to society] is paid, it’s paid, and you should not be prohibited from working, from being housed.

… Now, though, let me give you the other side of the argument. Behavior is predictive. If we know that you have committed a violent felony, is there a greater likelihood that you will do so again? Yes, we know that. We have to balance it out.

NMPR: How will you take action regarding the federal government’s detention of asylees and immigrant families, including families with children?

Janice Arnold-Jones: Asylees are very different from border-crossers. If you’re an asylee, you’re coming to this country and asking for asylum because you cannot stay safely in your own country. I would like to think most asylees are also coming here wanting to be Americans.

… We have an overburdened system. … And we have always taken asylees. What the law allows has changed every year. … Again, we’re going to talk root causes here. The thing we have with the current asylee issue is a problem … a court problem, a housing problem. The Ninth Circuit Court has said that for asylees who are being detained—and that’s part of the process, especially if you don’t have a sponsor—children could only stay with them for 20 days. Our court said children could not stay here because our detention facilities were not built for children. That’s all very reasonable.

… We used to use a place down in Artesia … that accommodated families for a while. … The moment that you arrive [as an asylee], within 24 hours, you get a determination hearing. If you are determined to be at risk, you go into a detention program. It happens many different ways, but we house you, we take care of you, that is our commitment. I don’t think it’s a bad commitment.

But the onslaught of what is happening in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, we should look at what the heck is going on there to cause children, in particular, to be put at risk. That is a moral crisis.

… I think we have to step up our courts, we have to step up the investigators with Customs and Border Patrol. … I do believe we have a right to control our borders, to know who’s here. I think technology can be used. What we’re going to go with asylees is something else.

… But I think we can fix this. We need workers. We need to know who they are, we need for them to get to and from their job easily and quickly. What if we set up kiosks on the other side of the border that say, ‘Please submit all your documentation,’ then we’ll tell you within two weeks whether you have a visa or not. We can use biometrics to do this, because we need the workers, but we also need those other pieces.

NMPR: What are your top priorities for improving safety and support services for survivors of sex offenses?

Janice Arnold-Jones: … When I started in [politics], Kari Brandenburg’s dad [former Bernalillo County District Attorney Jim Brandenburg] would take five-percent of [cases initiated by] the five-percent [of survivors] who would actually report to the police. Of that, we would get a five-percent conviction rate. It was dreadful. So we have come a very long way.

But there are couple of things: First, this is a traumatic event. … As traumatic as this is, there are also other traumatic events. There are people who fall off scaffolding and have permanent traumatic brain injuries. Is one more important than the other? No.

But one of the things I’m concerned about is that as we go forward with survivors, we cast them as merely victims as opposed to survivors. The victim mentality I think disempowers women. I think we have to talk about surviving and the fact that if you survive, you are strong.

NMPR: What are your top priorities for improving safety and support services for survivors of domestic violence?

Janice Arnold-Jones: … I think our resources are better spent providing preventative services rather than services after the fact. I am horrified that any male would choke a female. I’m horrified that a female would do the same. When does it become okay in a close relationship to engage in physical harm? Again, that’s a root causes issue. … I think this is something we need to talk about much earlier.

… I sometimes want to yell at the media, because again, in an abusive relationship, we cast the women as victims, as opposed to empowered individuals who are in charge of their own destiny. I don’t want you to think I’m being flippant, because if you are in that relationship, and you are dependent on that person for not only own life but the care of a child, your choices do change.

How do we make sure that the ways to leave are more visible, more accessible? I would probably focus there, but I think we also have to talk about root causes.

NMPR: Is there anything you wish I’d asked about issues that affect New Mexico women and families?

Janice Arnold-Jones: Again, let us be careful about calling it a women’s issue and casting women as victims, because we’re not. … I want my daughter to be strong and not a victim. Nobody has a perfect life, we all hit bumps. And some bumps you need. When I was coaching, I had the head coach grab me by the arm—this was when my daughter was having a fit—and say, ‘If you do not let her get up, she will not know how to get up.’ How do we balance that?

All of this week’s candidate Q&A’s were edited for clarity and length, although we did not edit the meaning of candidates’ answers. We did not include, however, tangents or off-topic issues candidates raised during the course of the conversations. It’s also important to note that the candidate’s answers aren’t annotated and we don’t point out any possible inaccuracies or misstatements.   

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