Re: Correspondence on Border Security
Dear Senator Schumer:
I appreciate your interest in helping us secure our border and recognizing my duty as Governor to address the public security concerns of Arizonans.
Arizona's border regions, extending into metropolitan Phoenix and Tucson, have become increasingly lawless because the federal government has not effectively controlled our international border and enforced its immigration laws. The federal government's policy of securing the border in the El Paso and San Diego areas has turned Arizona into the superhighway of illegal drug and human smuggling activity. The City of Phoenix has earned the dubious distinction of being the kidnapping capital of the United States, ranking only second behind Mexico City in the world. Busts of drop houses, where illegal immigrants are often held for ransom and otherwise severely abused, are not uncommon occurrences in some Arizona neighborhoods.
Given these circumstances, I am sure you can understand that waiting a year or more based on another federal promise of getting serious this time is not an option for Arizona. As has been said here, calling for comprehensive immigration reform before securing the border is like asking for comprehensive energy policy reform before stopping the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.
Here is my diagnosis of the problem and the way forward. Congress and successive Administrations (both Republican and Democrat) have lost all credibility with the American people, and Arizonans in particular, regarding border security and interior enforcement of federal immigration laws.
Unfortunately, I understand that the consensus in Washington D.C. is that nothing will be done legislatively on immigration this year and any promises of action for the rest of the year are part of some national political strategy. Neither side of the immigration debate will be fooled by that strategy. This non-action will only build the sense of alienation that Americans feel toward a federal government that won't solve problems that affect their everyday lives. It will be more of the same "promise something, do nothing, blame someone" political spin from Washington.
How do you build credibility on immigration issues? You need to show that the federal government can do something immediately to address border security and restore interior enforcement. We do not need new federal laws, but rather action by President Obama and sufficient funding from the Congress to secure the border and enforce our current laws.
The action taken must also be significant. To that end, I would propose that the federal government adopt a "surge" strategy. The Border Surge would continue until the border is secured as demonstrated by facts on the ground and integrity is restored to our interior immigration enforcement. Thereafter, the federal government would need to keep the resources necessary on the ground to maintain a secure border and enforce its immigration laws.
What would the federal Border Surge consist of? A good place to start would be the Border Security Plan that I announced in April and the multiple requests I have sent to President Obama and his administration regarding specific, immediate actions that should be taken. I have attached those for your review.
In addition, I ask you to give another look at the ten-point border security proposal by Senators McCain and Kyl. It is based, in part, on the border security plan of the Arizona Cattlemen's Association developed in reaction to their everyday experiences of living and working on the border and in tribute to their fellow member, the late Robert Krentz, who was killed on his ranch earlier this year.
In summary, I would highlight the following four categories of actions that would prove very helpful to the State of Arizona in the proposed Border Surge:
1. Send the National Guard troops back to the border and increase the number of Border Patrol agents. The bi-partisan group of border governors requested the redeployment of the National Guard over a year ago. Then-Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano believed the National Guard was very helpful on the border under Operation Jump Start and unsuccessfully fought the Bush Administration when they were removed. Border governors renewed their joint request in April of this year. A particular need that has been identified is for more aerial support. My border security plan announced last month has redeployed Arizona's very limited aerial resources to the border regions, and I have asked for additional support. I am happy to hear the President recently recognize that our border challenges require a National Guard response. However, I am not satisfied with the lack of specifics in his proposal. I hope to hear more when I meet with him today.
2. Complete a real border fence. The President's proposed budget provides no funds for completion of the border fence. Arizona's problem was caused in large part by the federal strategy of building a border fence only in the El Paso and San Diego areas in the 1990s. The construction and continual repair of a secure, and complete, border fence has to be part of the solution. The State of Arizona stands ready to assist in this effort. We have state prisons near the border and will supply inmate labor to build these fences in a cost-effective manner.
3. Fund federal agencies to be able to enforce current immigration laws. The McCain-Kyl Plan has a whole series of proposals to increase resources to under-manned and under-coordinated federal agencies. These proposals include funding additional Border Patrol stations in the Tucson Sector, increasing aerial assets along the border, and improving real-time radio/electronic communications capability among the different federal agencies and with state and local law enforcement agencies. Congress should also ensure adequate funding is appropriated to meet detention, processing, prosecution and other costs that result from a legitimate commitment to securing the border and enforcing federal immigration laws.
4. Reimburse Border States for costs related to the federal government's failure to secure the border. For example, Congress has failed to reimburse the States and localities for their costs of incarcerating criminal aliens under the existing State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. The State of Arizona and localities spend upwards of $150 million per year for criminal aliens in our prisons and jails. Another example is the burden on our county sheriffs dealing with all this drug and human smuggling activity. The federal government should fully fund the existing Operation Stonegarden, a program that provides funding to border law enforcement agencies. Senators McCain and Kyl have proposed increasing federal funding by $40 million for a total of $100 million.
As you know, problems do not wait for when it is politically convenient to address them. When I assumed office over a year ago, Arizona faced the worst budget deficit in the nation on a per capita basis. I proposed, and the Arizona Legislature passed, a budget that made many painful cuts. The State of Arizona has reduced its workforce by over 10 percent and cut over $2 billion out of roughly a $10 billion budget. State employees, including myself, are taking a 5% pay cut to balance the state budget. And on May 18, Arizona voters overwhelmingly approved increasing the state sales tax by 1% for three years to support education, public safety and heath needs.
Arizonans, and I believe all Americans, expect their leaders to make the tough calls whether on the budget or on securing our border. If the federal government won't secure the border, the State of Arizona will step in to complement federal efforts in a constitutional manner and protect the security of its citizens.
I believe the Border Surge strategy is the only way forward. Everyone agrees that our border is broken. Let's do something. I sincerely desire to work with the Arizona delegation, you and your colleagues in Congress and the Obama administration on this strategy.
Janice K. Brewer
cc: Arizona Congressional Delegation