Arizona's top prosecutor says the best way to stop illegal immigration is to dismantle the Mexican crime cartels.
Attorney General Terry Goddard, in Washington Thursday to testify to a congressional panel, said crossing the border now is much more difficult than it used to be.
"Unless you have criminal assistance, or are some kind of Olympic athlete, you're going to have a very hard time getting through a combination of hot desert, rugged terrain and border security,'' he told Capitol Media Services.
"The main reason the border is still being penetrated and people are still getting across is because they had criminal assistance,'' Goddard explained. He said that help is "very effective.''
"They have everything from the technology, to the information, the spotters that tell them where the Border Patrol is located,'' he said.
Goddard, set to testify before the House Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterrorism, said he sees Mexican criminal groups and illegal immigration as the same issue. He said aggressive prosecution of cartel members will automatically lead to fewer border crossings.
He acknowledged much of the activities of these cartels occurs on the Mexican side of the line, beyond United States jurisdiction. And he praised Mexican President Felipe Calderon for his "courageous'' stand against the violent groups.
What can be done here, he said, is to make it harder for the cartels to send their profits back to Mexico.
He pointed out it is illegal to take more than $10,000 in cash or equivalents, like travelers' checks, across the border without declaring the funds to federal officials. That would get the attention of prosecutors who could use that information to trace the source of the funds.
Goddard said, though, there is no such law for gift cards and other "stored value'' cards. He said someone can "load'' the card with that much cash and then simply walk across the border.
He said one option is to provide border agents with scanners that can read the value of the cards. But he said there are some technical problems with that depending on the type of card.
What can be done, though, is a requirement for U.S. retailers and others to notify the government any time a card is loaded with more than $10,000 in value. Goddard said that will help prosecutors "follow the money'' to figure out if it is the result of illegal activity.
His testimony comes as attorneys for Gov. Jan Brewer are in court today to urge a judge to reject two efforts to bar the state from enforcing its new law aimed at illegal immigrants. Goddard withdrew from defending the lawsuits after the governor insisted lawmakers gave her the sole right to control the defense.