Arizona, Sonora Governors Try to Make Border Safer
NOGALES, Ariz – Governors of Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora (search) on Friday 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.
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (search) and Sonoran Gov. Eduardo Bours spoke Friday at a news conference on a blocked off street at a border crossing point.
Napolitano announced that the state Department of Public Safety will create a new detail of officers to work with southern Arizona law enforcement agencies to target vehicle theft, a crime often linked to transporting of illegal immigrants (search).
Napolitano also announced that police in the border-area cities of Nogales, Bisbee and San Luis and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department will use newly provided state money to add dozens more officers to combat other border-related crime.
The state money being used by the local law enforcement agencies comes from $1.5 million authorized under an emergency declaration Napolitano made Monday for four border counties. A similar declaration was made separately by New Mexico's governor.
Meanwhile, Bours announced the establishment of four new checkpoints in Sonora where officers will try to identify and detain people engaged in smuggling and vehicle theft.
Both governors said they felt compelled to act, at least in part, because their respective federal governments have been slow to tackle border crime and security concerns.
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. "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."
Similiarly, Napolitano said border security is a federal responsibility. "But as a state governor, I must acknowledge that our federal government has fallen short."
Also Friday, Napolitano signed an executive order creating a new council to coordinate efforts and information sharing between the two states, while Bours said Sonora will provide Arizona law enforcement authorities with seven radios that will allow them to check on Sonoran vehicle registrations.
The two governors previously agreed on such steps as preparing a contingency plan and other procedures for emergencies, developing a database on critical facilities, creating a joint command center, trying to find financing for health centers and promoting anti-terrorism exercises.
Arizona is the nation's busiest illegal entry point on the porous U.S.-Mexico border.
Napolitano in July ordered the DPS to assign a dozen officers to assist local police and federal agents in immigration cases, but she said Wednesday that pilot program has been slowed at the federal level.
"We're having a lot of red tape there," she said.