By Penny Starr | CNS | Apr. 20, 2010
Law enforcement officials from the Arizona counties hardest hit by illegal immigration say they want U.S. troops to help secure the border, to prevent the deaths of more officers at the hands of criminals who enter the country illegally.
“We’ve had numerous officers that have been killed by illegal immigrants in Arizona,” Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said Monday at a Capitol Hill news conference. “And that shouldn’t happen one time.”
Babeu said the violence in Arizona has reached “epidemic proportions” and must be stopped. “In just one patrol area, we’ve had 64 pursuits -- failure to yield for an officer -- in one month,” Babeu said. “That’s out of control.”
The recent murder of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz, who was shot to death last month on his own property, apparently by an illegal alien, also has fueled public outrage.
Arizona Sens. John McCain and John Kyl, both Republicans, called Monday’s news conference to announce a 10-point plan to secure the border between Arizona and Mexico. They are requesting the immediate deployment of 3,000 National Guard troops and a permanent increase of 3,000 more Custom and Border Protection Agents along the state’s border by 2015.
McCain, who faces a tough primary election against conservative Republican JD Hayworth in September, sponsored an immigration-reform bill in 2000 that would have established a guest-worker program and a “pathway to citizenship” for illegal immigrants. The bill was opposed by many conservatives. He also supported immigration-reform bills in 2006 and again in 2007.
But on Monday, McCain was talking only about enforcement: "The lesson is clear: First we have to secure the border," McCain said. "If you want to enact some other reforms, how can that be effective when you have a porous border?”
Later on Monday, McCain told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly that he changed his stance on immigration over a year ago. McCain also made that point at Monday’s press conference:
“Let me just say that one of the requirements is absolutely that we need to send 3,000 National Guard troops along the Arizona Mexico border – something that Senator Kyl and I called for well over a year ago,” McCain said.
Kyl said the effort to make sure the government fulfills its responsibility to enforce federal immigration law goes back to the days when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was still governor of Arizona. But Napolitano has not responded to the latest request for troops through the proposed 10-point plan.
“Every one of these recommendations has been recommended to us by people who are on the front line,” Kyl said. “And many of these recommendations are not new. They have been part of what we have been writing to the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security about for a long time.”
The senators’ plan includes a wide range of tactics for securing the border, including funding and supporting Operation Streamline, which calls for criminal charges against and incarceration of individuals who enter the U.S. illegally.
“If you come into America and you’re here illegally, guess what? There is no catch and release. You should be detained for 14 to 21 days and then formally deported,” Babeu said of Operation Streamline. “You come back, guess what? You’re going to prison. That’s what we’ve got to do,” Babeu said.
The plan also calls for the federal government to reimburse the state for the cost of enforcing immigration laws, the installation of fencing in strategic areas, increasing surveillance capabilities and installing a federal magistrate in the state to oversee immigration cases.
McCain and others at the press conference said that more than half of the 1 million illegal aliens apprehended in the U.S. last year were arrested in Arizona and that 17 percent of those are known to have criminal records in the United States.
“Folks, your cops, your sheriffs cannot do this alone,” Babeu said. “We’re doing our best and we’re overwhelmed. We’re stressed and things are out of control. We need the help of troops that are deployed along the border, additional resources for our border patrol and a zero tolerance policy.”
Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever said he believes the porous southern border is not only dangerous to Arizona but to the entire nation, since terrorists could slip through just as easily as drug dealers. “To me, therein lies the real threat to our homeland security,” Dever said.
The senators announced their 10-point plan on the same day the Arizona Legislature sent a tough new immigration bill to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who has not yet said whether she will sign it.
The bill, championed as a law-and-order measure by its supporters, would make it a misdemeanor to be in the state illegally, and it would require police to question people about their immigration status if there's reason to suspect they're in the country illegally.