Following last week's declaration of states of emergency by the governors of New Mexico and Arizona, done in order to get federal funds to help handle an influx of illegal immigrants, one Arizona lawmaker has announced plans to introduce a bill in Congress that would boost enforcement of the porous border.
"When you have the situation that we have in Arizona — where, by some estimates, over 4,000 illegals attempt to cross every night — this is not just a crisis, it's a full-scale invasion," Rep. J.D. Hayworth (search), R-Ariz., told FOX News on Friday.
"We've been talking about it a long time, but talk has to be replaced with action, which is why when I return to Washington when Congress reconvenes, I will introduce a bill dealing with enforcement first," Hayworth said.
"You can't create new laws and hope people will obey them," he added, "because if we're not enforcing existing laws, what makes us think anyone will pay any attention to any new laws?"
On Friday, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (search) and her counterpart in the neighboring Mexican state of Sonora, Gov. Eduardo Bours, announced new steps to make the border region safer and to combat border-related crime but said they want their federal governments to do more.
Both governors said they felt they needed to act in part because their own federal governments have been slow to do something about the problem.
Bours, speaking through an interpreter, said he didn't want to lay blame.
"Nevertheless, this is a situation that the federal government is in charge of," he said at the event in Nogales, Ariz. "I am sure that the people of Arizona and Sonora will not accept that the governments of Arizona and Sonora not do anything in this situation."
The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that while about 140,000 illegal immigrants came over the border each year in the 1980s, more than 700,000 did so in 2004. Southwestern states are being hit particularly hard.
States: Congress Must Face Border Problem
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (search) declared a state of emergency in four counties along the U.S.-Mexico border last week because of what he called "a chaotic situation" involving illegal-alien smuggling, murder and drug shipments.
The former congressman and Clinton administration official, who says the federal government has done very little to help his state's plight, has promised $1.5 million to fight crime in those counties. Some of that money is earmarked to go toward boosting law-enforcement numbers at the border.
"I believe that when you have traffic of illegal drugs, illegal aliens, when we have kidnappings, murders, when you've got cattle mutilations, what's happening in my state, you need trained people to do that," Richardson told FOX News.
The governor says he is not, however, soliciting help from the Minutemen (search), a volunteer border-patrol group that has been in the news for its border-patrol efforts in Texas and elsewhere. But the U.S. Border Patrol told Richardson it will send a rotation of additional officers for the New Mexico border.
"Granted, it's not going to be enough, but I believe, with the sheriff's department of the four counties that I issued the executive order, overtime pay, additional staffing of $1.7 million dollars, I think we're going to do a lot better job," Richardson said.
"It's not going to always be an adequate effort, but it's reaching a point ... where we need a federal immigration policy," he added. "Congress needs to face up to this problem on the border. They need to give us the resources we need."
Juan Hernandez (search), author of the forthcoming book, "The New American Pioneers," and a former adviser to Mexican President Vicente Fox (search), said the United States needs to do more to work with Mexico on a new program to curb acts of violence that occur with immigration. He would not detail what Mexico was doing to try to prevent such acts.
"We don't need to close our borders," said Hernandez, a U.S.-born Texan with dual nationality. "We don't need a state of emergency. If we would just get our Congress to really move on this, and I think that's one area that I would agree with the governor," Hernandez said.
In Arizona, Napolitano has earmarked $1.5 million to go combat illegal border crime and she wanted to assign 12 highway patrol officers to team up with federal agents to better curb drug smuggling and undocumented workers in the Phoenix area. But Arizona-based officials of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement passed up the offer.
"The bewildering resistance is a further example of ICE's inattention to Arizona," Napolitano wrote in a letter last week to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff (search). "Indeed, the turnover in the leadership of ICE in Arizona has been a revolving door with 'acting' officials who rarely stay long enough to effect change or establish polices."
Arizona gubernatorial candidate Don Goldwater said 80 percent of all new crime along the Arizona border has been committed by illegal aliens.
"We have a problem here in Arizona that local law officials and local government and our federal officials fail to recognize — that we have a border problem out here," the nephew of former Sen. Barry Goldwater said in a recent interview with FOX News. "We've had raging battles down our freeways where rival drug gangs have shot it out with themselves, endangering people."
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) said Wednesday he would also consider declaring a state of emergency to strengthen law enforcement along the border with Mexico.
"We're talking about that right now," Schwarzenegger told Rick Roberts, host of a morning radio talk show in San Diego. "If we see a need for that, we will do definitely the same thing."
Jerry Brown, the mayor of Oakland, Calif., told FOX News on Friday that the tightening of the California border has caused more problems in other border states; there are about 3 million illegal immigrants in California alone.
"This is an issue that transcends any state," Brown said.
Although declaring a state of emergency in California may be a good idea, he said, it's not going to have much of an impact unless more action is taken by both countries' governments to rein in illegals.
"Yes, there is an emergency … [but] this is not just an emergency, it's obviously a chronic crisis," Brown said, noting that there are 30,000 undocumented felons in California prisons. "This thing has been going on a long time and political rhetoric doesn't stop it."
The commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States requested 2,000 more border agents, yet the Bush administration authorized only 200 in its most recent budget request.
Critics of the federal government's policy argue that terrorists could easily take advantage of the porous border.
Hayworth said legislation is needed that would allow state governors to act as commanders of their National Guard and Reserves and to have them supplement border patrol agents.
He said deploying active military shouldn't be out of the question, either, though that might violate the Posse Comitatus Act (search) of 1878, which bans the military from law enforcement on U.S. soil.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., in May introduced the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, which calls for the use of various high-tech devices, such as unmanned aerial vehicles and lasers, to catch people illegally crossing the border. It would also establish a new electronic employment-verification system.
A competing bill, the Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act of 2005, sponsored by Sens. John Kyl, R-Ariz., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, would fund the immediate hiring of 10,000 additional Border Patrol agents and the eventual hiring of 10,000 more to crack down on businesses that hire illegal aliens.
McCain recently told FOX News that the first priority for the United States should be to halt illegal immigration.
"There's no argument whatsoever, nor difference between me and Senator Kennedy and Senator Cornyn and Senator Kyl on the need to enforce our border," McCain said. "What we do also need — and they have sort of agreed and the White House has agreed, the president agrees — we need a guest worker program (search) to go along with it to relieve some of the pressures that are coming across with illegal immigration so that we can arrest and take care of possible terrorists and drug dealers."