THE BLOG
07/21/2010 11:13 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Facts, Not Fear

On the road to the November election, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer continues to see an illegal alien under every bush. This is the path she has chosen and this is the path from which she will not stray.
 
Brewer announced she is granting $10 million in federal stimulus funds to Arizona law enforcers so they can fight crime caused by illegal immigrants.
 
In this overheated political environment, this seems like a prudent move. Trouble is, it's well established that border crime and the apprehensions of illegals have been on a steady decline. These are facts Brewer hopes you ignore.   
 
Thanks to leaders like Brewer, the police state ossifying along the border will continue to grow. Adding insult to injury, much of the $10 million will be spent on SUVs.
 
That money would have been better used to lure alternative-energy businesses, to help residents convert to sustainable energy sources, to help school districts facing teacher layoffs.
 
The Washington Post is in the midst of a blockbuster series that attempts to quantify the unbridled growth of our security apparatus. This series illustrates that billions of dollars are being wasted in the name of security -- including border security-- with a burgeoning expansion of law enforcement, an alphabet soup of spy agencies, too many private contractors to count.
 
More than 850,000 people now have top-secret security clearance. That's more than the populations of five U.S. states -- Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Vermont.
 
We throw ever more of our dwindling resources at the Security Industrial Complex, which has become a self-perpetuating machine. The larger it grows, the more it demands, and politicians like Brewer obediently feed it. Redundancies beget redundancies -- more money for more gadgets, more gas-guzzlers, more National Guard troops to militarize the border -- and still the root causes of our problems remain unaddressed.
 
The failed 40-year-old War on Drugs is a significant component of the Security Industrial Complex. The U.S. has expended a staggering $1 trillion to wage the War on Drugs, yet we have the highest rates of marijuana and cocaine use. The U.S. has 5 percent of the globe's population but 25 percent of its prisoners. Illegal drugs remain available and affordable on the streets.
 
Brewer and Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl want to "stay the course" when it comes to the nonsensical War on Drugs and our counterproductive immigration policy. They must adhere to these narratives to keep their political bases in a frenzy of fear -- and sending them campaign donations.
 
It's long past time to rethink our approach to immigration and drug enforcement.
 
We should legalize, regulate and tax the holy hell out of drugs. The proceeds could help reduce government deficits and pay for treatment and prevention programs. This would also pull the rug out from drug cartels that are so powerful they comprise a shadow government, with its own modern military, that runs Mexico.
  
Portugal decriminalized marijuana, cocaine, heroin and meth in 2001. Rather than locking people up, they get them treatment. The result: the rate of those who've used marijuana (10 percent) is the lowest among all EU nations. (The US rate is 40 percent). Heroin- and cocaine-related deaths were cut in half.
 
The Netherlands does not enforce its marijuana laws. The mayor of Amsterdam says this approach has made marijuana "boring."
 
These new approaches are more effective and much less costly than locking up drug users and fighting (while empowering) criminal syndicates that flourish in black market economies.
 
I recently spent some time in Yuma speaking to U.S. Border Patrol officers. These are the people who know first-hand what's most needed to stem the flow of drugs and illegal aliens. The officers told me that 85 percent of the people they apprehend are what they term "clutter" -- impoverished people whose sole aim is to earn enough to feed themselves and their families.
 
A sane immigration policy would allow such foreigners to obtain biometric ID cards, get work visas matched to domestic demand and come and go as necessary. A sound immigration policy would deflate the black market in human smuggling. It would free the people guarding the border to pursue serious criminals and prevent terrorists from entering the country.
 
As your U.S. Senator, I will gather and share the best facts -- as opposed to the most inflammatory rhetoric -- on these and other issues facing our country. We are on the wrong path, and we must examine these problems empirically and come up with new and effective methods of problem-solving.
 
I choose a path paved with facts, not fear.