Republican senator John McCain is blaming undocumented immigrants for the wildfires spreading across Arizona. The state currently has five active wildfires that together have burned close to 764,000 acres, according to InciWeb, an online interagency database that tracks fires. McCain offered no evidence that the current fires were started by immigrants, and yet said:
“There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally,” McCain said in a press conference Saturday, CNN reported.
“They have set fires because they signal others, they have set fires to keep warm, and they have set fires in order to divert law enforcement agents and agencies from them,” McCain explained before going on to offer his solution. “The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border.”
On Sunday, one day after McCain made his claims, the U.S. Forest Service reported there is no evidence that undocumented immigrants started any of the wildfires in Arizona.
According to ABC News, when Tom Berglund, spokesman for the federal group managing the Wallow fire that McCain toured Saturday, was asked if there is substantial evidence that some fires were caused by undocumented immigrants Berglund responded with: “Absolutely not, at this level.”
Randy Parraz, a civil rights advocate who ran unsuccessfully against McCain as a Democratic candidate in 2010 for Arizona State Senator, called McCain’s accusations “careless and reckless.”
“It’s easier to fan the flames of intolerance, especially in Arizona,” Parraz said.
“The degree of irresponsible political pandering by Sen. McCain has no limits,” Angelo Falcon, the president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, told CNN. “With the lack of evidence, he might as well also blame aliens from outer space for the fires.”