Arizona Ups the Ante on Border Security

President Obama's speeches on border security are heavy on sarcastic rhetoric but light on substance.  Remember his immigration comments in May 2011?

You know, they said we needed to triple the Border Patrol.  Or now they're going to say we need to quadruple the Border Patrol.  Or they'll want a higher fence.  Maybe they'll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat.  They'll never be satisfied.  And I understand that.  That's politics.

American Thinker interviewed many Arizona officials who believe that there is nothing political about their safety and wellbeing.

Once again, the Arizona Senate is feeling the need to enact legislation in an attempt to help secure the border.  Because the federal government is not doing its job, Arizona Senate Bill 1083 will probably be passed in the near future.  It calls for the establishment of a state guard.  Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) believes that the state senators wanted to participate in finding a solution since "the state is trying to grapple with an epidemic problem.  This administration would rather sue this state instead of working with it.  SB 1083 is a cry to get help.  This is a consequence from the federal government's inaction."

State Senator Sylvia Allen (R-AZ), the author of the bill, explained to American Thinker that the border is exponentially more dangerous today: there's more drug activity, and Mexico has become the number-two poppy seed-grower.  Furthermore, most of the marijuana into the U.S. comes through the Arizona corridor, and there is more evidence of terrorist connections with the cartels.

Allen noted some of the highlights of the bill.  The state guard will be a supplement for state and local law enforcement, who are stretched thin, and will allow more boots on the ground.  The candidates will be vetted by going through a fingerprint check, a background check, a polygraph, and a psychological evaluation.  The training will consist of approximately forty hours initially plus one day a month, with extra training provided for special units.  The governor will pick a commander who has a military or law enforcement background; the rules of engagement will be the same as they are for law enforcement.  They will be used only on an "as requested basis," or if the governor chooses to assign them a mission such as assisting with disaster and rescue efforts.

These volunteers will carry guns and will be able to detain and arrest until a law enforcement agency takes over.  They can engage in close pursuit of cross-border criminal activity, and they will fall under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Public Safety, with approximately $1.4 million to be allocated.

Representative John Kavanagh (R-AZ) believes in the bill.  He sees it as an expansion of the neighborhood watch concept, the community law enforcement assistance programs, the sheriff's posse, or the state reserves.  The extension of these other volunteer programs includes the mandatory training, detailed screening, and state oversight.

However, Kavanagh has some concerns -- for one, he would like to see the role of these volunteers limited.  "They can spot illegal crossers and then call border patrol or, if they see drug smugglers, then call local law enforcement.  I would be more comfortable if they were limited to just being the eyes and ears.  My concern is with the active role they would play in being allowed to pursue and arrest.  There should be a firm designation that they do not attempt to apprehend or arrest anyone who is armed.  The state could be liable if someone acted recklessly or in bad faith."

Two law enforcement officers, Douglas Police Chief Alberto Melis and Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, agree with Kavanagh and are even more critical of this bill.  Both think that the idea itself is not bad but that the way it is to be implemented is dangerous.  Melis noted that his candidates are trained by attending a police academy for five months, and then, for another four months, they must ride with a field-training officer.  He will never utilize the volunteer force because he sees it as "a tragedy waiting to happen.  I know how well my people are trained, how they will react, their strong and weak points, and the circumstances when they will perform well and when they won't.  Besides, they are under my command and control.  This bill tries to supplement a professional force with an amateur force."  Melis does not agree with the comparison to an auxiliary police officer, since the new regiment cannot arrest or take any action with a gun.  To emphasize his point, he cited the story of a rancher coming home and seeing four Mexicans sitting by the horse trough.  "If a state guard came upon them, how could they tell those migrant workers from the real bad guys?"

Sheriff Dever agrees and wants the funds allocated to law enforcement agencies already working on the border, and for hiring and vetting more candidates.  What a volunteer force can be used for, according to Dever, is administrative duties.  In this way, his deputies can be freed up to be on the streets.  Besides the dangers previously cited, the volunteers must deal with a rough, hostile, and dangerous terrain during the nighttime.  Because Dever sees this potential confrontation as hazardous to their safety and his deputies, "I don't think the phone will ring to ask for them.  Just imagine the Obama administration in the background waiting for us to stumble and fall."

A former high-ranking Border Patrol official with knowledge of the Arizona border sees it as a potential Pandora's box.  Since Border Patrol agents wear green uniforms to camouflage themselves in the desert, he fears that the state guard could mistake them for the bad guys.  More importantly, he explained, "there have been instances where those working with the drug cartels have penetrated BP and local law enforcement.  I could easily see them being able to infiltrate the state guard as well."

Ranchers also weighed in.  One of the ranchers feels that it would be just another variable added to the equation.  She is afraid that these volunteers will have a false sense of authority and do not want them "to run rampant through our border pastures with no regard for the landowner."  Another rancher is willing to consider SB 1083 if it allows individual property owners the power to accept or deny the volunteer force access.  He commented, "If a rancher's security is threatened and if they want the Arizona State Guard on their ranch because they have no confidence in DHS, I can see why they would support it."

SB 1083 has very good intentions.  Senator Allen feels that this bill sends a clear message to Washington: Arizona is not just going to do the walk anymore, but is going to take the initiative to solve its own problem.  Since the federal government is not doing anything to secure the safety of Arizonans, the State Senate feels the need to protect and defend them as well as their property.  However, for the safety of the volunteers, the ranchers, local law enforcement, and Border Patrol, this State Guard should take over the role of the National Guard, being the eyes and ears, but should not have an active role of apprehending, arresting, and detaining.

President Obama's speeches on border security are heavy on sarcastic rhetoric but light on substance.  Remember his immigration comments in May 2011?

You know, they said we needed to triple the Border Patrol.  Or now they're going to say we need to quadruple the Border Patrol.  Or they'll want a higher fence.  Maybe they'll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat.  They'll never be satisfied.  And I understand that.  That's politics.

American Thinker interviewed many Arizona officials who believe that there is nothing political about their safety and wellbeing.

Once again, the Arizona Senate is feeling the need to enact legislation in an attempt to help secure the border.  Because the federal government is not doing its job, Arizona Senate Bill 1083 will probably be passed in the near future.  It calls for the establishment of a state guard.  Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) believes that the state senators wanted to participate in finding a solution since "the state is trying to grapple with an epidemic problem.  This administration would rather sue this state instead of working with it.  SB 1083 is a cry to get help.  This is a consequence from the federal government's inaction."

State Senator Sylvia Allen (R-AZ), the author of the bill, explained to American Thinker that the border is exponentially more dangerous today: there's more drug activity, and Mexico has become the number-two poppy seed-grower.  Furthermore, most of the marijuana into the U.S. comes through the Arizona corridor, and there is more evidence of terrorist connections with the cartels.

Allen noted some of the highlights of the bill.  The state guard will be a supplement for state and local law enforcement, who are stretched thin, and will allow more boots on the ground.  The candidates will be vetted by going through a fingerprint check, a background check, a polygraph, and a psychological evaluation.  The training will consist of approximately forty hours initially plus one day a month, with extra training provided for special units.  The governor will pick a commander who has a military or law enforcement background; the rules of engagement will be the same as they are for law enforcement.  They will be used only on an "as requested basis," or if the governor chooses to assign them a mission such as assisting with disaster and rescue efforts.

These volunteers will carry guns and will be able to detain and arrest until a law enforcement agency takes over.  They can engage in close pursuit of cross-border criminal activity, and they will fall under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Public Safety, with approximately $1.4 million to be allocated.

Representative John Kavanagh (R-AZ) believes in the bill.  He sees it as an expansion of the neighborhood watch concept, the community law enforcement assistance programs, the sheriff's posse, or the state reserves.  The extension of these other volunteer programs includes the mandatory training, detailed screening, and state oversight.

However, Kavanagh has some concerns -- for one, he would like to see the role of these volunteers limited.  "They can spot illegal crossers and then call border patrol or, if they see drug smugglers, then call local law enforcement.  I would be more comfortable if they were limited to just being the eyes and ears.  My concern is with the active role they would play in being allowed to pursue and arrest.  There should be a firm designation that they do not attempt to apprehend or arrest anyone who is armed.  The state could be liable if someone acted recklessly or in bad faith."

Two law enforcement officers, Douglas Police Chief Alberto Melis and Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, agree with Kavanagh and are even more critical of this bill.  Both think that the idea itself is not bad but that the way it is to be implemented is dangerous.  Melis noted that his candidates are trained by attending a police academy for five months, and then, for another four months, they must ride with a field-training officer.  He will never utilize the volunteer force because he sees it as "a tragedy waiting to happen.  I know how well my people are trained, how they will react, their strong and weak points, and the circumstances when they will perform well and when they won't.  Besides, they are under my command and control.  This bill tries to supplement a professional force with an amateur force."  Melis does not agree with the comparison to an auxiliary police officer, since the new regiment cannot arrest or take any action with a gun.  To emphasize his point, he cited the story of a rancher coming home and seeing four Mexicans sitting by the horse trough.  "If a state guard came upon them, how could they tell those migrant workers from the real bad guys?"

Sheriff Dever agrees and wants the funds allocated to law enforcement agencies already working on the border, and for hiring and vetting more candidates.  What a volunteer force can be used for, according to Dever, is administrative duties.  In this way, his deputies can be freed up to be on the streets.  Besides the dangers previously cited, the volunteers must deal with a rough, hostile, and dangerous terrain during the nighttime.  Because Dever sees this potential confrontation as hazardous to their safety and his deputies, "I don't think the phone will ring to ask for them.  Just imagine the Obama administration in the background waiting for us to stumble and fall."

A former high-ranking Border Patrol official with knowledge of the Arizona border sees it as a potential Pandora's box.  Since Border Patrol agents wear green uniforms to camouflage themselves in the desert, he fears that the state guard could mistake them for the bad guys.  More importantly, he explained, "there have been instances where those working with the drug cartels have penetrated BP and local law enforcement.  I could easily see them being able to infiltrate the state guard as well."

Ranchers also weighed in.  One of the ranchers feels that it would be just another variable added to the equation.  She is afraid that these volunteers will have a false sense of authority and do not want them "to run rampant through our border pastures with no regard for the landowner."  Another rancher is willing to consider SB 1083 if it allows individual property owners the power to accept or deny the volunteer force access.  He commented, "If a rancher's security is threatened and if they want the Arizona State Guard on their ranch because they have no confidence in DHS, I can see why they would support it."

SB 1083 has very good intentions.  Senator Allen feels that this bill sends a clear message to Washington: Arizona is not just going to do the walk anymore, but is going to take the initiative to solve its own problem.  Since the federal government is not doing anything to secure the safety of Arizonans, the State Senate feels the need to protect and defend them as well as their property.  However, for the safety of the volunteers, the ranchers, local law enforcement, and Border Patrol, this State Guard should take over the role of the National Guard, being the eyes and ears, but should not have an active role of apprehending, arresting, and detaining.