Gov. Jan Brewer said Tuesday that Arizona’s border with Mexico is still not secure and called for additional resources to improve border security.
Brewer said the Arizona border with Mexico continues to be “a gateway” for drug smuggling and unlawful crossings after she took an “extensive” aerial tour of the southern border on Tuesday and met with ranchers living in border towns. She also called for more fences, drones, border patrol agents and National Guard troops.
The Arizona governor, a vocal critic of President Barack Obama’s immigration policies, toured the southern border hours before the president’s State of the Union address in which he spoke about moving forward with immigration reform.
Brewer also criticized Obama on Tuesday for not doing enough to improve border security. She invited him to travel to Arizona and meet with border-area ranchers and residents who she said don’t feel safe from drug and human trafficking.
“Anybody that would tell us that the border is secure are the people living on the border,” Brewer said.
Border resident: I feel very secure
But 28-year-old Alex Gibilisco, who lives close to the Arizona border with Mexico, said he feels “very secure” because of all the border enforcement that has been added in recent years.
A report released last month by the Migration Policy Institute found that the federal government spent nearly $18 billion on immigration enforcement agencies in the last fiscal year. That’s more than what was spent on all other law enforcement agencies combined.
Much of that money went to pay for more border patrol agents as well as more technology and infrastructure along the U.S.-Mexico border. The additional resources have been effective in reducing the number of unlawful crossings, which are at a 40-year-low, according to the Migration Policy Institute report.
Gibilisco, who is the civic engagement and organizing coordinator for the Border Action Network, told VOXXI these numbers show that the conversation over border security is not one “we need to be having anymore.”
“We need to start talking about the real issues of immigration,” he told VOXXI. One of the issues he pointed to is paving a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
Activist wants less focus on border enforcement
Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona, agreed that there should be fewer conversations on border enforcement and more on other aspects of immigration, such as ways to integrate undocumented immigrants into society and ways to improve the process for immigrants who want to come work in the U.S.
Falcon added that politicians who continue to push for additional border enforcement are polarizing the immigration issue. She said she fears that could halt progress on immigration reform.
“When I hear about this need for added border enforcement, it drives fear into people’s mind,” she told VOXXI. “That’s what people like Jan Brewer are doing.”
Brewer indicated on Tuesday that she would be willing to move forward with other reforms on immigration once the border is secure, but didn’t give specifics of what a secure border should look like. Instead, she said the southern border won’t be secure until ranchers and other residents living near it no longer see illegal activity caused by the drug cartels and human smugglers.