Citizen Staff Writer
Some of the latest state and national proposals purporting to advance border control smell more like political gamesmanship than genuine solutions.
And given the seriousness of the situation, this foolishness is unacceptable.
At the state level, the Legislature last week passed a bill that purported to appropriate $10 million to deploy National Guard troops along the border.
We have concerns about whether any military force should be operating along the U.S.-Mexico border. But the bill wasn’t written to tackle that contentious issue. Instead, its purpose was to put Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano in a political pickle.
The Republicans who wrote and passed the bill included a requirement that the governor “shall” call out the Guard anytime an emergency is declared.
The governor is the sole commander of the Guard and it would have been unacceptable and unconstitutional to require Napolitano – or any future governor – to activate the Guard whenever an emergency is declared.
If legislators really think the National Guard should be added to the border mix and that Arizonans should pay the bill, they could simply appropriate the money without the political poison pill.
Even so, we are concerned about Napolitano saying Guard troops should be deployed at all. A Guard spokesman said he feared introducing military troops would lead to a buildup in weaponry and possibly to gunbattles.
Napolitano points out that Guard troops have been assigned to the border region since 1988. They don’t pursue or arrest illegal immigrants, but do other jobs that allow the Border Patrol to more effectively carry out its responsibilities.
Still, it is a disquieting development.
At the federal level last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee ordered the Border Patrol to hire 12,000 new agents in the next two years.
That sounds like a get-tough move, but it is toothless. No money was proposed for training and hiring new agents.
Assume that it costs $50,000 to hire, train, equip and deploy one Border Patrol agent for a year – a very conservative estimate. Twelve-thousand agents would cost $600 million a year. Where is the money?
The Border Patrol also says it can’t handle 12,000 new agents in two years. In previous years, there have been problems when the Border Patrol was pushed to ramp up hiring too quickly.
One agent was a convicted burglar, another had been convicted of helping an illegal immigrant enter the country and a third was charged with murdering his cocaine supplier before joining the Patrol.
In tackling border problems, it’s time to stop the posturing and be constructive.
Man on a mission
The story of José P. Herrera, a Tucsonan with a seemingly quixotic dream, was told last week in the Tucson Citizen.
Herrera is building an 8,000-square-foot home on the near South Side, one concrete block at a time.
Work started 11 years ago and is progressing slowly because Herrera can’t get a loan for the home. Finance companies say a house that big won’t hold its value in that part of town.
But the building goes on, little by little. Audacious? Of course. But so what? It’s Herrera’s audacious plan, his money and his labor. We hope he – and we – see this mansion completed.