Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Illegal Immigration

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, there has been a lot of conversation about the issue of illegal immigration and the results of different meetings. I know my colleague from Arizona wishes to discuss that aspect of the issue, but I take to the floor with my friend and leader from Arizona to discuss the overall issue of immigration in light of a meeting and a trip he and I had to the border on Saturday, where we visited with ranchers, with citizens, with Border Patrol, and where we had a thorough trip throughout the area. So we come to the floor to share our conclusions and concerns with our colleagues.

Let me begin by saying that unfortunately--or fortunately--the head of the Customs and Border Protection recently said that parts of Arizona were like a ``third country.'' You know, in some respects--in some respects--he may have been correct. Let me quote him. This is David Aguilar, the Acting Deputy Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He was quoted in the Arizona Republic as saying:

the border is not a fence or a line in the dirt but a broadly complex corridor. It is ..... a third country that joins Mexico and the United States.

A third country that joins Mexico and the United States is obviously not as secure as the United States of America. If my colleagues will look at this map here and see this area here, this is the sign that is posted as far away as 50 miles from the Arizona-Mexico border.

Danger. Public Warning. Travel Not Recommended. Active Drug and Human Smuggling Area. Visitors May Encounter Armed Criminals and Smuggling Vehicles Traveling at High Rates of Speed. Stay Away From Trash, Clothing, Backpacks and Abandoned Vehicles. If You See Suspicious Activity, Do Not Confront. Move Away and Call 911. BLM Encourages Visitors to Use Public Lands North of Interstate 8.

North of Interstate 8 is the area north of this shaded area. In other words, visitors are encouraged not to go south of the interstate, which is a huge part of the State of Arizona. That is the posted sign put up by the Federal Government.

Then the Secretary of Homeland Security says, ``The border is secure as ever.'' If the border is as secure as ever, then you have to draw the conclusion that it isn't secure, because otherwise you wouldn't have to be posting signs such as this 50 miles north of the border, if the border was secure. Our whole point is that we need to get the border secure. We don't see the necessity in the United States of America placing a sign such as that.

If we are doing fine on border security, why would it be necessary to put up a sign such as that all the way up to the interstate?

Here is another sign from our Park Service in the Coronado National Forest. This is in our national forest, from the Park Service.

Smuggling and/or Illegal Entry Is Common in This Area Due to the Proximity of the International Border.

If we had a secure border, why would we have to put up signs such as that? If we had made such great progress at that time the Secretary of Homeland Security was trumpeting this, why in the world would we have to put up signs such as that? That is the question.

I will let my colleague discuss the results of our visit, but I can tell you that the citizens residing in the southern part of our State do not feel secure. When you have 241,000 illegal immigrants apprehended last year, that means that, depending on who you talk to, it is nearly a million people apprehended in just that part of the border. When you have 1.2 million pounds of marijuana intercepted in the Tucson sector, it is not a secure border. When you have the violence--the incredible violence--that continues to rise on the other side of the border, you know it is just a matter of time before it spills onto our side of the border.

Unfortunately, just south of the Arizona-Sonora border resides the most vicious of all the drug cartels--the Sinaloa cartel--headed by Juan ``El Chapo'' Guzman, who walked out of a Mexican prison a few years ago and, unfortunately, this cartel has corrupted officials at very high levels.

I report to my colleagues that the people living in the southern part of the State of Arizona do not feel secure. They see signs such as this one, which I mentioned; and they see the destruction of our wildlife preserves; they see the in-home invasions. And, yes, our Border Patrol and the men and women who are serving in it are doing a magnificent job. We are proud of the job they are doing. But they do not have the assets in order to complete the job of securing our border.

Senator Kyl and I have a 10-point plan that, if implemented, will do the job.


Mr. McCAIN. And may I also make the comment that my colleague from Arizona points to about the terrible and unspeakable treatment that is inflicted upon these individuals who are brought in by human smugglers. Almost all are brought up by human smugglers. Where are the human rights advocates and activists? Shouldn't they be standing up and saying: You have to have a secure border so that these unspeakable indignities--the
rape and ransom and all these things--will be stopped?

Secondly, I want to point out very quickly to my colleagues that in recent years, 80 percent of the wildfires in our Coronado National Forest have been human caused--75 percent of those are attributed to undocumented aliens who fail to properly extinguish fires started to signal for rides, cook food, or dry clothing. The Coronado National Forest now has to send armed officers to clear wildland fire areas and to provide security for firefighters. The Forest Service has reported accounts of armed smugglers walking through the middle of active firefighting operations. And now, in its fourth week today, as we speak, the human-caused Horseshoe fire is burning in the Chiricahua Mountains in the Coronado National Forest, 5 miles from the town of Portal, AZ. It is the site of very heavy drug trafficking and border-crossing activity.

With the few minutes we have remaining, I want to engage Senator Kyl in a conversation about what we need to do and why we need to secure the border first. There has been a lot of publicity in the last 24 hours about a conversation that Senator Kyl had with the President of the United States. I was not there, but I was there a few weeks ago when the President of the United States came and had lunch with Republican Senators and gave a list of the issues that he was concerned about, with immigration being one of the items he mentioned. So Senator Kyl and I responded to the President of the United States.

It was made very clear to me in the conversation we had--and I am sure our 39 other colleagues who were there will recall--that the President basically conditioned his support for border security to overall comprehensive immigration reform. We went back and forth. I tried to explain to the President that we gave amnesty back in the 1980s. Somewhere around 3 million illegal immigrants were given amnesty, but the promise was that we would secure the border. Obviously, we didn't secure the border and we now have 12 million people in the country. As Senator Kyl mentioned, there are some hundreds of thousands in the State of Arizona illegally.

So our point is that even if we went through comprehensive immigration reform, if we don't have a secure border, then some time from now we will have another group of illegal immigrants we will have to address, and so the issue argues for getting the border secured first. It can be done in 1 or 2 years.

It isn't that expensive, when you look at the costs of a wildfire and all of the things, drugs and everything else associated with it, not to mention a violation of human rights.

There is a big stir about the conversation the President and Senator Kyl had. It was clear to me in the conversation, in front of 39 Republican Senators, that the President of the United States said yes, he would secure the border, but we had to have ``comprehensive immigration reform.'' This is the difference between our position and that of the President. We say secure the border, have the Governors of the border States certify it is secure, and then we can certainly move on. But the American people have to have the assurance that we are not going to revisit this issue time after time. Every nation has the obligation to secure its borders.

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, when Senator McCain and I asked the acting head of the Border Patrol in the area where we were on Saturday, what do you need, he basically said, ``More of everything.'' He talked about the need for 800 more Border Patrol agents. He talked about the need for more surveillance--something Senator McCain has talked about a lot, surveillance to cover a very big area where you are probably never going to have enough personnel even if we bring in National Guard troops. He welcomed the National Guard troops to the area. He said we are going to have to have consequences for people crossing. I talked to him about Operation Streamline. In the Yuma sector of the border, which is on the western part of the Arizona border, the Yuma sector is very close to being operationally clear of illegal immigration issues because they have enough agents, they have enough fencing. By the way, he talked about the need to repair and replace a lot of the fencing in his sector. But they also have a policy that, instead of catch and release, where the people are simply put on a bus and sent back to Mexico, they actually are prosecuted and have to spend at least 2 weeks in jail.

That is a huge deterrent. Because if you are a criminal, obviously you don't want to be caught and go to jail, and if you are here to work and send money back to your family, you are obviously not doing that if you spend time in jail. He said there have to be consequences. We believe the expenditure of somewhere between $1 billion and $3 billion over the next couple of years could provide adequate resources--this is our 10-point plan--adequate personnel, the fencing that is required, the surveillance, the technology, and also the extra prosecutors, courtroom, and detention spaces that would be necessary to provide the deterrent or the consequences, as he put it. There is no doubt the border can be secured. What we need is the will to do it.

Mr. McCAIN. What Senator Kyl and I are trying to report to our colleagues is, No. 1, the border is not secure. The border is not secure. No. 2, it can be secure. How could someone claim our border is more secure than ever if the Federal Government has to put up that kind of warning to American citizens on American soil? If nothing would convince my colleagues that we need to do a lot more, it is the actions of the Federal Government. That is not a private landowner who put up that sign. That is the Bureau of Land Management. So have the Department of Interior and other agencies.

The point is, we are trying to tell our colleagues it is not secure. We can secure it. Our citizens deserve that.

But the second point we want to make as forcefully as possible is: Let's get this border secure, which we can do, and then we can move forward with comprehensive immigration reform and work together with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle. But for us to go back to our constituents and to the American people, and say: Hey, we moved forward with this legislation, yet we still are having to put up signs such as this, that people should avoid being in an active drug and human smuggling area, in the United States of America, is not a convincing argument that they are ``as secure'' as ever.

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, might I inquire how much time remains on our side?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. There remains 6 minutes 18 seconds.

Mr. KYL. That is the time remaining on our side.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. That is correct.

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, what I wish to do is take about 3 more minutes and then my colleague can close.

As he said, if you need a different kind of reason to want to secure the border, then look at what is happening to our environment. I know the Presiding Officer--and his father before him--is keen on protecting the great national treasures of our country, our environment. Coming from adjoining States, we share a lot of the same kind of country. The area in the extreme southwestern part of his State and the extreme southeastern part of our State is known for some of the best birding in the world. The part of northern Mexico that borders our States provides a sanctuary for birds that are not found anywhere else in the world. This fire my colleague mentioned is burning right up to the creek which is one of the watersheds that represents the prime area for these birds to exist. Their habitat will be destroyed if we continue to have fires set by illegal immigrants in the area that destroy the habitat.

If you look at the environment of the area from the air, you see that there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of paths that are worn in parts of the desert that are basically off limits to American citizens and even to our law enforcement officials, but the smugglers use these trails and they deposit their trash. Everybody knows that once you have cut the desert, it takes hundreds--hundreds--of years for that desert to respond. That is just one reason.

Obviously the human tragedy is the one that is of most concern. If my colleagues would hear this one plaintive cry, we were told on numerous occasions on Saturday: Please, go back to Washington and tell your colleagues what it is like. Tell them how we are suffering. Tell them what we have to go through just to live here. Can't our Government at least provide basic protection from crime? These are members of the family of Robert Krantz, who was brutally gunned down, and fellow ranchers in the area and other citizens who live in the small communities there. They believe their government has abandoned them. They look right into our eyes and say: What are you going to do about it?

The best we can do is to tell you the fear they have, the suffering they have gone through, the difficulty they have continuing to live in an area, as I said, in which some of their families have lived for four and five generations, to pass that message on to my colleagues and say: OK, if it is the environment you care about, there is a reason to be there; if it is crime, there is a huge reason to be there; if it is the cost to the Federal and State government, we need to get hold of this problem. But if you just care about the people who are there, we have an obligation as their representatives to assure their protection, and that is the message we are coming to the floor today to convey to our colleagues. Please listen, if not to us, to our constituents, and remember we all work for all of the people of the United States of America. We are all Senators. So every one of us here has an obligation to the folks--yes, in your State but also to the folks in our State--to at least provide them the basic protection and give them a sense that they do not live in a Third World country between the United States and Mexico; that they are American citizens deserving of the protection of the U.S. Government.

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, there is no way I can elaborate on that very strong statement, so I yield the remainder of our time.

Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top