Many communities in the country deal with effects of illegal immigration, but none like those near the border in Arizona. There, American citizens no longer feel safe in their homes and worry about the security of their property — indeed, the failure to secure the border is altering their way of life.
One of the government’s most basic duties is to ensure the security of its citizens. For many Arizonans, the government is failing miserably in that regard. They are angry, and rightfully so.
We recently saw that anger and frustration firsthand when we visited Douglas and ranch country, in the southeast corner of the state. We toured with the Border Patrol, met with local ranchers and their families, and heard many concerns from local residents during a town hall meeting. The residents — including some families who have called the area home for four or five generations — told us to go back to Washington and tell our colleagues about what they have to live with every day and what they need from their government.
The acting head of the Border Patrol in the area told us that he needed “more of everything.” He said that the border fencing in the area needed to be repaired and some needed to be replaced. He spoke about the need for 800 more Border Patrol agents and much more surveillance. He also discussed the importance of consequences for those who are caught crossing the border illegally. The highly successful Operation Streamline, which has slowed the flow of illegal immigration in the Yuma Sector to a trickle, ensures that illegal immigrants are prosecuted and jailed for at least two weeks, instead of simply being released back to Mexico. That policy needs to be expanded to the Tucson Sector.
Ranchers and residents told us that they are suffering and are tired of living with the effects of illegal immigration. The ranches on which many of them live used to be safe, but today they must carry weapons when they leave home. Some travel in pairs. The tragic murder of Robert Krentz proves that the danger is real, and that Arizonans lives are at risk.
Southeast Arizona residents are also tired of seeing the drug and human smugglers destroy the environment. Paths through the desert — now off-limits to Americans since human and drug smugglers have taken control of them — are littered with garbage. The effects of the unsecured border on the environment and local residents are quite simply devastating.
The people who live near the border have the same rights to safety and security as other Americans. Their federal government is failing them, and they asked us to convey that message to others in Washington. That’s why we introduced a 10-point border security plan that, among other things, calls for the immediate deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops to the border as well as additional fencing and technology to the region.
Congress and the president can secure the border only if they provide the resources and have the will to do it. It is the federal government’s obligation to protect all Americans by securing the borders.
Our message to President Obama and Congress is to remember that all of us work for the American people and that includes Americans living along the U.S.-Mexico border. They deserve our protection.