“Less talk, more action.” That can pretty much sum up reactions on all sides to President Obama’s speech last week on immigration reform. But as the Department of Justice gears up for its lawsuit against Arizona for the state’s imposition of SB 1070, Arizona’s Democratic congressional representatives seem eager to help drum up the lie of out-of-control border violence in order to secure support from the state’s white voters.
Representatives Ann Kilpatrick, Gabrielle Giffords, and Harry Mitchell lashed out against Obama’s assertion last week that the border was secure and didn’t need more militarization. All three have previously carefully navigated the political minefield that is immigration reform in the state, and conservative Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Giffords has voiced support for a stronger military presence along the border.
“The crisis on America’s borders won’t be addressed with words,” Giffords told The Hill. “I was disappointed to hear the president give short shrift to border security concerns by saying that our nation’s southern border is more secure today than at any time in the past 20 years.”
All this despite the recent passage of the 2010 Supplemental Appropriations Bill in the House last week, which includes $700 million in border security funds. At least $50 million of that is set aside to deploy National Guard troops to border states.
Still, representatives like Giffords remain unmoved by Obama’s claim last week that “our borders are just too vast for us to be able to solve the problem only with fences and border patrols.” Giffords went on to tell The Hill that the border’s been in shabby shape for the past two decades, offering nothing to back the claim up and with no mention of how it got that way, if so.
Of course, the talk of border security and National Guard troops is based more on sensationalist political posturing than fact. Even FBI statistics have shown that violence along the border is down. And in U.S. cities along the border, including San Diego, El Paso and Phoenix, violent crime has dropped nearly twice as fast as the national average in the past year. And as Julianne Hing pointed out last month, immigration enforcement spending has skyrocketed under Obama’s watch from $8 billion in 2008 to $11 billion this year.
The Arizona representatives’ remarks may well be attempts to drum up support among white voters in the state, who support the state’s draconian SB 1070 legislation.
Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, echoes an important reminder in Hing’s piece:
“[Politicians] are creating the artificial reality that the border is out of control, that it spills over. None of that is true,” says Fernando Garcia, the executive director of the El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights. “We have a very sustainable sense of security in the community, good relations with local law enforcement.”