A state senator wants to use the National Guard and local sheriffs to stop buses with undocumented individuals from coming in to Arizona from other states.
In a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer, Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, said there's apparently nothing the state can do to stop people from coming into this country in the first place.
But she said the state has an obligation — and a right — to prevent federal officials from sending to Arizona those who were apprehended elsewhere. That, she said, means Arizona needs to “secure our borders with surrounding states.”
Only thing is, there are no buses filled with migrants crossing into Arizona from New Mexico for deputies or soldiers to stop or turn around: Those captured in Texas by Customs and Border Protection are being flown to Arizona for processing. Only after that are they being taken by bus to the local Greyhound terminals where they can catch transportation to somewhere else.
That does not preclude alternate options, including posting soldiers or deputies at airports or at the bus terminals where they are being dropped.
But Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said there is no authority of local law enforcement to stop the buses operated by the Department of Homeland Security which are taking the migrants to the bus stations.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled Arizona cannot make it a state crime to be in this country without authorization. He said that leaves deputies with no authority to detain someone in the first place —especially after they already have been processed and released by immigration officials.
Gubernatorial spokesman Andrew Wilder said his boss will consider “all options that are appropriate and legally available to her,” but he said that definitely does not include what Ward is suggesting.
The controversy surrounds efforts by Customs and Border Protection to deal with what appears to be an unprecedented wave of migrants crossing the Rio Grande River.
There actually are two separate operations.
One involves families with children. These are the people being processed, taken to the bus station and being given paperwork to appear at some future date at an immigration office near their final destination.
Separately, Customs and Border Protection is taking who were captured traveling alone to a detention center in Nogales. They are being processed there before being turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services which will try to place them with family members already in this country.
“In the situation we are currently facing, we must seek Arizona solutions,” Ward wrote to Brewer in a letter obtained Friday by Capitol Media Services. She said there are several options.
“Our AZ National Guard could be activated to secure our borders with surrounding states,” she wrote. “Our Constitutional sheriffs could band together and prevent busloads full of illegal aliens from entering Arizona.”
Ward urged Brewer to come up with a plan to provide “humanitarian aide to those seeking asylum” but also to stop the federal government which “seeks to shift responsibility for illegal immigrants to the states without allowing those same states their right to protect their own borders.”
Babeu, who has taken an active stance in issues of border security, said he has all sorts of problems with what CBP is doing.
“I have huge concerns with the federal government just leaving people off ... who have no means to support themselves,” he said. “What are they going to do while they are here in the United States?”
But Babeu said there's precious little, if anything, the state can do.
“The Supreme Court has ruled on this issue and said under the Supremacy Clause (of the U.S. Constitution) that it is the power and authority of the federal government” to deal with the issue of immigration. “As much as I disagree with President Obama and how he's undermined the rule of law, even though he's failed to do his job, this is his realm, regrettably.”
Montgomery said that Supreme Court ruling struck down a provision of SB 1070, the state's 2010 law aimed at immigration, which would have made it a crime for someone not to carry the legal papers proving a right to be in this country. The court said states have no role in enforcement of immigration laws.
“Presumably, then, you can't even say that they're, at that point in time, unlawfully present,” Montgomery said. “So I don't understand what the basis would be for telling them they can't be in Arizona.”