Our state continues to pay a heavy and unfair price for the federal government’s failure to secure our borders and fix our broken immigration system. The federal government has a responsibility to act – it simply hasn't done so – and Arizona continues to shoulder the burden.
As you know, illegal immigration affects Arizona more than it does any other state – more than half of all illegal crossings over the U.S.-Mexico border happen here in Arizona. Specifically, here in the Valley, this has enabled smugglers and Mexican drug cartels to set up vast networks of drop houses, which operate as gateway stations for their illegal activities. The crime and violence associated with these drop houses is tragic and completely unacceptable. Upon being elected to Congress, I asked for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation into federal efforts to identify and remove criminal aliens and combat drop houses. This has been a multi-year investigation, of which we expect the results to be presented this summer.
This is also why last month I introduced a bill with Republican Rep. Dana Rohrbacher of California to help secure our border. H.R. 5357, The Deploy National Guard Troops to the Border Act, would immediately deploy a minimum of an additional 3,000 National Guard troops to Arizona's border.
The National Guard has successfully assisted with border security in the past. Operation Jump Start, which concluded its mission in 2008 proved remarkably effective. Border-wide, the National Guard helped seize more than 1,080 vehicles used to transport drugs and/or illegal immigrants, more than 300,600 pounds of marijuana, and 5,060 pounds of cocaine.
I thought the National Guard was drawn down too quickly in 2008 and urged President Bush to extend the deployment of National Guard troops – to no avail. At the time, I offered legislation at the time to stop the draw down from happening, but it was defeated. I’ve also urged President Obama on multiple occasions to send additional National Guard troops to the border and teamed up with Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray of California last year to secure millions of dollars in additional funding for security improvements at the border.
While I welcome the President’s recent announcement that he will be sending an additional 1,200 National Guard troops to the border, I believe we need much more. That is why I hope Congress will take the next step by passing our bill while working on a more comprehensive, permanent fix.
Arizonans should have their voices heard in this debate and recent action taken by the state reflects Arizonans’ ongoing frustration with the federal government’s failure to enact tough, realistic immigration reform. The situation cannot wait simply because this is an election year, while folks in Washington choose to play politics rather than provide solutions. This is an urgent threat to our national security, and I believe the federal government must act.
A broken and ineffectual immigration system is a burden Arizonans should not have to continue to bear alone.
Mitchell's statement on the introduction of H.R. 5357 can be found here in the Congressional Record.