Arizona skeptical of border claims
Arizona, a Republican-led border state, has long played an outsize role in the immigration wars. It enacted the nation’s toughest law against illegal immigrants in 2010, has spawned vigilante border-watch groups and has elected officials such as Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, icons of a national movement to seal the border and fight “amnesty” for the undocumented.
Today, as the Obama administration seeks lawmakers’ backing for steps that would legalize millions of undocumented residents, Arizona’s conservative forces are rallying for another fight. This time, they have new ammunition from sequester cutbacks and reports of Mexican drug gangs muscling in on what was once a routine cat-and-mouse game between federal agents and poor migrants.
The new battle pits Brewer against another high-profile Arizona figure, Democratic former governor Janet Napolitano, now U.S. secretary of homeland security. Napolitano insists that the U.S.-Mexico border remains more secure than it has been in years, even as she warned that Border Patrol cuts would leave fewer agents to cover rugged rural areas where most illegal crossings take place. Meanwhile, Brewer has accused the White House of using the sequester for political gain at the expense of public safety.
Asked about Arizona and its most porous border segment, a 120-mile stretch that crosses ranches such as Ladd’s and the north-south highway between Tucson and Nogales, Napolitano asserted that once-heavy illegal traffic there had fallen to its lowest level in years. The government estimates that border-area arrests across Arizona, mostly in the Tucson-Nogales region, dropped 80 percent to 125,000 between 2000 and 2012.
But some members of the border enforcement community charge that officials in Washington have deliberately exaggerated the drop in illegal crossings and unfairly focused budget cuts on their mission. They warn that smugglers of drugs and of humans will take advantage of the sequester, which is expected to reduce thousands of hours of overtime and has already led to the release of hundreds of illegal immigrants from detention.
“The real truth is not getting out. The Border Patrol is only catching 5 percent of what crosses, and they are being told not to report getaways,” charged Zack Taylor, a Nogales resident and leader of the national association of former Border Patrol employees. “Arizona is already a lawless area, and with those cuts in manpower it’s going to be wide open.”
Several law enforcement observers said illegal migrants are starting to cross in larger groups, anticipating a more tolerant U.S. government policy to result from talks in Washington. “The numbers of illegals have really picked up since they heard amnesty is coming,” Taylor said.The migration pattern has changed as the cartels take over and bring in large groups made up mostly of Central Americans who are held for ransom until their families provide money If it is not forthcoming, it is not unusual for the cartels to just kill those who can't pay. I sense that the 5 percent capture rate is probably valid and many of those who are caught are released unless they have had time to commit a felony.
There is some political momentum in Washington for amnesty, but so far they have no answer for how the next group of illegals will be treated and whether they will also get amnesty. Until they can make a persuasive case for detrrence, I think there will still be strong grass roots opposition to any amnesty bill.