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McCain, Kyl call for Guard troops on Arizona border

From our big brother up north:

by Erin Kelly
Arizona Republic Washington Bureau

Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, flanked by sheriffs from Pinal and Cochise counties, announced a 10-point border security action plan Monday in the midst of growing violence on both sides of the Arizona-Mexico border.

The plan includes sending 3,000 National Guard troops to the border, adding 3,000 Border Patrol agents in Arizona by 2015, increasing funding for programs that help local law enforcement fight drug and immigrant smuggling, and ensuring that anyone caught crossing the border illegally more than once serves 15 to 60 days in jail.

“Border violence has spiraled out of control, and Arizona has been disproportionately hit,” McCain said at a Capitol press conference.

McCain, who is up for re-election this year, and Kyl, who is not, acknowledged that many of their ideas are the same ones they’ve been pushing for months or years. But they said escalating violence – including the murder last month of southeastern Arizona cattle rancher Rob Krentz – prompted them to put the ideas together into a comprehensive plan to secure the border.

Law enforcement officials believe Krentz may have been killed by an illegal immigrant. On the day of his murder, Krentz had radioed his brother that he had encountered an illegal immigrant on the ranch.

“These security recommendations come from the sheriffs and others on the front lines,” Kyl said.

Kyl said he didn’t know how much the plan would cost federal taxpayers. One provision alone – increased funding for Operation Stonegarden, which provides grants and reimbursements to local law enforcement for costs related to illegal immigration – would cost $40 million.

The two Republicans also did not say exactly how their plan would be paid for, although McCain said he thought the money could come from shifting funds away from “unneeded and unnecessary” federal spending programs.

The state should not have to bear the cost of fighting immigration-related crime, McCain said. “The state of Arizona is broke, and the security of our border is a federal responsibility,” he said. The senators announced their plan just as the Arizona Legislature was poised to pass the final version of a bill that would make it a state crime to be in the United States illegally. The legislation would allow police to arrest people who can’t produce valid identification.

Under current law, illegal immigration is a federal crime, and state law enforcement officials can ask about someone’s immigration status only if they’re suspected of another crime.

“I think it’s a very important step forward,” McCain said of the bill.

Kyl said the legislation stems from federal government’s failure to do its job. “People are fed up,” he said.

More than half of the 1 million illegal immigrants apprehended at the Southwest border last year were caught in Arizona, and more than half of the marijuana smuggling also came through the state, said Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever.

Of the illegal immigrants apprehended at the border, 17 percent had criminal records in the United States, Dever said.

“We don’t know how many others have records in their country,” Dever said. “To me, therein lies the real threat to our homeland security.”

Local law enforcement officials are overwhelmed and need federal help, said Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who also serves as president of the Arizona Sheriff’s Association.

Last month alone, there were 64 pursuits by Pinal County deputies of people who refused to pull over their cars, Babeu said. He said many of those who flee are illegal immigrants heading to the Phoenix metro area.

“This has reached epidemic proportions,” he said. He called the senators’ plan “welcome.”

“Border security has been the number one issue for law .

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