Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is once again calling for more border enforcement, despite data suggesting both violent crime and illegal immigration have dropped in the area.
Ahead of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address Tuesday night, the immigration hardliner visited Arizona’s southern border to meet with ranchers and Border Patrol agents.
“It’s pretty obvious that Arizona once again is a gateway for the drug cartels,” Brewer told reporters after taking an aerial tour of the border on a Black-Hawk helicopter, the Los Angeles Times reports. Executive Vice President of the Arizona Cattlemen's Association Patrick Bay echoed the sentiment, telling the Associated Press: "We definitely don't feel the border is safe at this time."
Brewer said she law litter, areas free of border fencing and people preparing to cross illegally.
That prompted her to call for the federal government to send more Border Patrol agents and drones to her state, according to the Associated Press. The $18 billion the federal government spent last fiscal year on border enforcement is more than all other law enforcement agencies combined, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.
The governor who signed SB 1070 has in the past argued that the status of the county's 11.1 million undocumented immigrants should be postponed until the border reaches an undefined level of security. That’s also the approach a bipartisan group of senators has taken as they move forward
But crime statistics reported in USA Today and the Huffington Post show that violent crime has actually dropped in recent years along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, as well as in the border states of California, New Mexico and Texas. The border cities of El Paso and San Diego, in fact, are ranked as the two safest large cities in the United States, according to Congressional Quarterly.
Illegal crossings in Arizona are at a 20-year low, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates net migration from Mexico at zero or less.
Failure to define what border security looks like promises to cause confusion as the immigration debate moves forward in Congress. As Edward Alden and Bryan Roberts wrote in Foreign Affairs in 2011:
This contradiction stems in part from the fact that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has never clearly defined what border control means in practice. A secure border cannot mean one with no illegal crossings -- that would be unrealistic for almost any country, especially one as big and as open as the United States. On the other hand, the borders cannot be considered secure if many of those attempting to enter illegally succeed. Defining a sensible middle ground, where border enforcement and other programs discourage many illegal crossings and most of those who try to cross illegally are apprehended, is the challenge.