The Democratic Solution to Border Security: Declare an Emergency and Go Home?
by risenmessiah, Sat Aug 13, 2005 at 11:32:54 PM EDT
Read the press release here.
Read the press release here.
While it is true that a Border Patrol crackdown in Arizona has spawned much more illegal cross-border traffic through New Mexico, its southern counties are sparsely populated. Columbus, the site of Richardson's visit, has only a handful of law enforcement officers. The city simply does not have the resources to stop people from crossing, and private landowners usually have even less at their disposal. Richardson undoubtedly realizes that politically it's expedient to blame the federal government's inability to secure the border and cite the fact that he did what he could. But as the declaration reveals, Richardson is doing even less than federal authorities.
He downplays the role illegal immigration as the reason for the emergency. He proclaims:
Recent developments have convinced me this action is necessary- including violence directed at law enforcement, damage to property and livestock, increased evidence of drug smuggling, and an increase in the number of undocumented immigrants. Even so, you figure perhaps Richardson might use the occasion to propose or implement some new ideas.
Unfortunately the next part of the press release dashes all hopes of that: Governor Richardson's declaration makes $750,000 in state emergency funding immediately available to the affected counties. The Governor pledged an additional $1 million in assistance for the area. The funds will be used to support state and local law enforcement efforts, create andfund a field office for the New Mexico Office of Homeland Security to coordinate assistance to the area, and help build a fence to protect a livestock yard near Columbus, along a favorite path for illegal immigration where a number of livestock have been stolen and killed.
Unlike California or Texas, New Mexico's biggest cities are far from the border. Illegal border traffic, be it drug smugglers or day laborers are more concerned with using the state as a way station to somewhere else. Whereas a crackdown on the hiring of undocumented aliens would have a huge impact in California, Arizona, Nevada, or Texas, Richardson realizes in New Mexico that is a drop in the bucket. So would measures to deny non-citizens various types of state services. Nevertheless, he seems unwilling to make bold moves that do seem appropriate for New Mexico. While he can't use the National Guard to patrol the border (at least under current legal opinion), he could expand the New Mexico State Police to increase patrols along I-10 and to assist the city of Columbus. He also could use public nuisance laws to prosecute smuggling depots operating out of residential neighborhoods.
Still Richardson's indifference is likely to cost his state little. But his strategy may prove very costly for other states and Democrats very soon. Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano is thinking of emulating her neighbor. Such would be a terrible idea in terms of policy and politics. Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the US and a major depot for illicit border traffic be it people or contraband. Instead of merely denying undocumented workers visits the free clinic, Napolitano can end her state's fatal attraction with the border one way. She has to pass a state law forcing employers to verify the citizenship status of their employees. While that alone won't end the "emergency" it then allows her to concentrate on choke-points for illicit traffic along I-10, I-19 and Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.
After all, many people smuggled into the country are actually flown to cities like New York City and Chicago from the Southwest. But since state governments have no ability to prevent interstate commerce under the Constitution, they often watch helplessly if federal law enforcement chooses to do nothing. Should Napolitano imitate Richardson, the results in Arizona could be disastrous. Republicans will gain a powerful tool to bludgeon her and Jim Pederson in the 2006 election. Moreover, it increases the chances that other Democrats will adopt the belief that the best way to deal with border security is to have a press conference. Democrats and liberals must demand more leadership from their elected officials on this, not more photo-ops.
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