If you can look past the ugly politics in Arizona, it is truly a beautiful place to live and work. I have resided in Tucson, Arizona, for most of my life and there are times when I’ll be driving, hiking or running in the surrounding wilderness and the scenery is breathtaking. The saguaro cactus, the javelina, the bobcats and the rattlesnakes are some of the unique aspects of the Sonoran Desert ecology. Sadly, over the past decades this stunning background has been slowly decaying with increased militarization and more border patrol vehicles, drones, surveillance and detection equipment scattering the desert panorama. If the border security bill, S. 750, becomes law—and it just passed out of the Senate Homeland Security Committee–it would further eviscerate the beauty of the millions of acres of federal land in the Yuma and Tucson Border Patrol sectors.
S. 750 (“Arizona Borderlands Protection and Preservation Act”) is a bill that was written by Arizona Senator John McCain. In spite of its name, it may very well have the opposite impact on protection and preservation of the desert. It would give 100% access for the “functioning and operational capability to conduct continuous and integrated manned or unmanned, monitoring, sensing, or surveillance” by the U.S. Border Patrol. That includes national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, national monuments and other public lands. This bill permits widespread deployment of communications, routine motorized patrols and surveillance that could encroach upon the sacred tribal lands of the Tohono O’odham and the Pasqua Yaqui.
S. 750 is a bad idea and should be opposed!
Most frightening from an immigration viewpoint is the completely infeasible sealed border that Sen. McCain wants in the bill, a standard that DHS Secretary Johnson says is “unworkable” and that N. Korea and other totalitarian regimes with a shoot to kill practice can’t even achieve. Instead of attempting to pass piecemeal border security bills, Senators McCain and Flake should be re-focusing their immigration-related efforts on trying to rekindle the push for comprehensive and common-sense solutions. The business community is struggling to bring or retain high-skilled workers in the wake of the 2015 H-1B filing debacle where 233,000 applications were filed and more than 2/3rds of these applications (plus the filing fees) are being rejected due to an antiquated quota system. Ultimately, this only hurts our nation’s economy.
The agriculture community has been pressing for their own visa reforms and the need for a modernized guest worker program and potential path to a green card. The family-based immigration system is a mess and in dire need of changes. Millions of hard-working, deserving undocumented individuals remain in limbo. So, rather than trying to push for a straight border security bill that would ultimately increase the militarization on the border and have a negative impact on the desert environment, I respectfully ask that the two Arizona senators look at the bigger picture as they did in 2013 and avoid the unworkable border-security-above-all approach to reform.
Written by Mo Goldman, Chair, AILA Media-Advocacy Committee