Across the nation illegal immigration and border security continue to be hot topics for most Americans.
Many believe there is peril across the border in Mexico waiting to spill itself into bordering states and eventually throughout the nation.
Others believe these immigrants are mostly hard working people trying to live the American dream.
There are illegal workers taking jobs from Americans, children of illegal immigrants filling up our school system, drugs and drug related violence flowing out of Mexico unabated according to those most passionate against illegal immigrants and sealing our borders against them.
In Arizona, the debate continues to sizzle over controversial state bill SB1070 languishing in the court system as the federal government fights to knock the law from the state’s books and proponents fight to keep it.
The law directs law enforcement officials to question the immigration status of suspected illegals who are detained during traffic stops for violations or other suspected infringements of the law.
Seen as racist by some who believe the law will bring more racial profiling and as a last hope measure to cull illegal immigration because the feds have been lax in doing so, the law has created deep divisions in Arizona as well as the country as the debate continues.
On both sides of the political-party fence Democrats and Republicans do agree something has to be done.
Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, (D-District 1) criticizes Congress for not doing enough to alleviate the immigration problem in Arizona. Kirkpatrick represents the Greater Sedona area.
“Like most Arizonans, I am frustrated and angry with Washington’s failure to step up, secure the border region and establish a national immigration strategy,” she said. “Because it has not, our state has taken the lead in the national debate on these challenges. However, a patchwork, state-by-state approach is not going to be effective in addressing a national security issue. It is up to the federal government to get the job done, and I have been fighting to make them live up to their responsibilities.”
She said the feds need to step up to the plate and take the situation in hand.
“This issue is the responsibility of the federal government, and for too long it has not been fulfilling its duties,” the Congresswoman said. “First and foremost, the federal government has to secure the border. Once the border has been secured, it needs to develop a new national immigration strategy.”
From her seat on the House Committee on Homeland Security, she said she has been calling for a greater military presence at the border with Mexico.
“As Arizona’s only representative on the House Committee on Homeland Security, I have been working hard to get the federal government to put more boots on the ground and more resources into action along the border,” she said. “That’s why I pushed the House and Senate to come back from vacation and pass $600 million in new border security funding. Moving forward, my Southern Border Security Act would add an additional 3,500 Border Patrol agents, and I believe that is a realistic next step.
She said she has not seen any evidence of racial profiling in her district which includes Sedona and other destination spots.
“The law enforcement personnel in my district are trained professionals who do their jobs extremely well, and I haven’t seen any evidence that they treat people differently because of their race,” she said. “I do think racial profiling is unacceptable, and if issues do come up, then obviously we should deal with them swiftly and harshly.”
She said there is much more Washington can do to tighten border security.
“In addition to putting more boots on the ground, we have to make sure our agents have the resources they need to deal with the levels of illegal activity we’re seeing,” she said. “That means providing better equipment and improved technology to help agents do their jobs as effectively and as safely as possible. We also must provide law enforcement with the legal tools they require. For example, I have a bill that would help our agents crack down on the growing problem of cartels using electronic prepaid cards to smuggle drug money from the U.S. into Mexico. Until existing law is changed, our law enforcement officials simply do not have the authority they need to attack this activity head-on.”
Sen. John McCain (R-District 1), who also represents Sedona, said citizens living in Arizona and especially along the border with Mexico are living in fear.
“Americans living anywhere, but especially along the border, must feel safe and secure in their homes and on their property,” he said. “They cannot feel safe while close to a million illegal border crossers, many with criminal records enter through the southwest each year.
McCain said drugs and violence entering the country across the border are growing to pandemic proportions.
“With an increase in illegal border crossers and an increase in Mexican drug cartel violence, we have seen record amounts of drugs crossing the border,” he said. “Ninety percent of the cocaine seized in the United State comes through Mexico and much of it is smuggled though Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California to points throughout the country. Arizona leads the southwest border states in the seizure of marijuana with nearly 1.7 million pounds of marijuana being seized last year in Arizona, with 1.2 million of those pounds being seized in the Tucson sector — a 43 percent increase from 2008.”
He said the problem is not just Arizona’s but the entire country’s as well.
“The Mexican drug cartels operate in more than 230 U.S. cities and every region of our country. Drug smuggling through our borders is reported to generate as much as $38 billion in revenues for the Mexican drug cartels.”
He said illegal border crossers not only face danger from the traffickers who transport them but the crossing through the harsh desert as well.
“In addition to the brutality at the hands of the human smugglers, the harsh climate and terrain take the lives of hundreds of migrants each year,” he said. “In fact, this year has the potential to break the record for the number of heat-related deaths for migrants illegally crossing the Arizona desert. So far in 2010, 170 bodies have been found by authorities in Pima County.”
He said a recent $600 million spending bill that was passed is a crucial first step.
“While far from perfect, this bill is a step in the right direction,” he said. “It will send 1,200 new border patrol agents and 250 new customs and border protection officers to the border; procure two new Unmanned Aerial Vehicles establish two forward operating bases; and provide millions of dollars for vital radio communications interoperability. The bill also provides hundreds of millions of dollars for additional judges and prosecutors to ensure our Federal government prosecutes illegal border crossers.”
One thing is certain: Sedona’s representatives in Congress are not asleep at the switch. Despite their political backgrounds and differing philosophies, the safety of the people and the integrity of our borders remain foremost in their minds.