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John Dougherty Headshot

Brewer's Beheading

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There is absolutely no evidence to support Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer's series of inflammatory statements in the last two weeks that the majority of illegal Mexican immigrants entering Arizona are drug smugglers and hardened criminals and that beheadings are now occurring in Arizona.

Brewer's statements only hardens opposition to comprehensive immigration reform, which is absolutely necessary to protect the U.S. from a terrorist attack. The immigration chaos on the Mexican border is unnecessarily providing cover for our enemies.

In the midst of a tough Republican primary for governor, Brewer told Fox News in a June 17 interview with Greta Van Susteren "we cannot afford all this illegal immigration and everything that comes with it, everything from the crime and to the drugs and the kidnappings and the extortion and the beheadings..."

Beheadings?

In Arizona?

If anybody's lost their head in the Grand Canyon State, it's Brewer.

Contrary to Brewer's self-serving and untruthful statements designed to whip Arizonans into a racist frenzy as the election approaches, illegal immigration is declining and 85 percent of the aliens arrested along the border are seeking low-wage jobs in the United States and have no criminal background.

Last Thursday afternoon I visited the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol headquarters in Yuma, AZ and was presented with an entirely different assessment of conditions on the border by CBP public affairs officer Ken Quillen.

First, Quillen said the United States has made tremendous strides in reducing illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexican border. In 2005, CBP arrested nearly 1.2 million illegal aliens along the Mexican border. That number dropped by 50 percent in 2009 to slightly over 556,000 and is expected to be down even more this year.

Conditions have improved even more dramatically in the Yuma sector, which stretches 126 miles east from this town in the far Southwestern corner of the state. Last year, CBP arrested 6,900 illegal aliens, a precipitous decline from 138,000 in 2005.

Quillen said tripling the number of CBP agents, erecting triple fencing in urban areas, adding surveillance cameras and aggressive prosecution of illegal aliens by the local federal magistrate in Yuma County are credited for the reduction in illegal immigration.

Despite Brewer's irresponsible claims, illegal immigration is getting better, not worse.

Second, Quillen said wannabe lettuce pickers, landscapers, hotel workers and other low-wage job seekers make up about 85 percent of the illegal immigrants caught at the border. These nonviolent immigrants, Quillen said, are a huge distraction in the CBP primary mission to secure the border from terrorists and hardened criminals.

CBP officials consider job-seeking immigrants to be "clutter" that gets in the way of their primary mission to protect the U.S. from serious danger.

It is clearly a matter of national security to immediately pass comprehensive immigration reform that will allow for an orderly flow of low-wage and fully documented workers to enter and leave this country to meet economic conditions.

A documented immigrant workforce, combined with strict employer sanctions, would go along way to reducing the chaos and underground economy associated with illegal immigration.

The U.S. could also generate significant revenue by charging up to $3,000 for temporary work visas that would assure legal documentation of immigrants and allow tracking once they enter the United States.

Many illegal immigrants are already paying this amount and more to coyotes, who often exploit the workers for more money once they arrive in the U.S.

Contrary to Brewer's contortions, human traffickers inflict the vast majority of their crimes against their cargo of immigrants, not against U.S. citizens.

As long as fear mongers like Brewer -- and this includes Senator John McCain who is refusing to support comprehensive reforms -- continue to misrepresent the facts about illegal immigration, the United States will remain more vulnerable to terrorist attack and less secure.

The United States needs an economic solution to what essentially is an economic problem. And we need it now.

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