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opinion

AG Mark Brnovich: Arizona's border crisis doesn't end at the border

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Mark Brnovich with PCSO Sheriff Mark Lamb

Mark Brnovich with PCSO Sheriff Mark Lamb looking at an active drug and human smuggling trail in Pinal County.

The views of this opinion article do not necessarily reflect the views of Arizona’s Family. 3TV/CBS 5 is publishing this article as a service to the community. Attorney General Mark Brnovich was inaugurated in 2015, and again in 2019 after winning re-election.


As a first-generation American, I’m grateful that my parents were able to immigrate to the United States. Like so many others before them, they came to this great country seeking opportunity and freedom. They were also trying to leave behind oppression, crime, and government officials who would not equally enforce the rule of law. 

In those days, arriving in America was an exciting new chapter in peoples’ lives. America was a shining city on a hill, where there was transparency in government, dignity in humankind, and a system where people could get ahead if they played by the rules. Contrast that with the heartbreaking experiences migrants face today when illegally crossing our southern border.

As Attorney General and as a former county and federal prosecutor, I am very familiar with the dangerous drug cartels. They are sophisticated international criminal organizations that are exploiting migrants and profiting off of the border crisis.

The drug cartels and plaza bosses touch everything that comes across the U.S. - Mexico border. Law enforcement is seizing overwhelming amounts of illegal drugs, including cocaine, heroin, meth and fentanyl. Over one weekend alone in May, Border Patrol agents from the Yuma Sector’s Wellton Station seized approximately 534 pounds of methamphetamine, worth an estimated $961,000.

Border Patrol stops smugglers in Arizona

Border Patrol agents from the Yuma Sector’s Wellton Station seized approximately 534 pounds of methamphetamine earlier in May.

In Texas, enough fentanyl has been seized at the border to kill every single person in New York, according to Governor Greg Abbott. The sad reality is these are just the drugs that have been seized and a fraction of what is surely pouring in. The drugs that make it through will be poisoning our loved ones and tragically affecting our communities in countless ways.

Twenty years ago, migrant children’s biggest struggle was learning English, but today they face much bigger challenges with the abuse they endure on their way to America at the hands of these ruthless criminals. Indeed, many are abused physically, mentally, and sexually along the way.

We’ve seen chilling video of human smugglers dropping toddlers down a 14-foot border wall and leaving them. We watched heartbreaking video of a 10-year-old boy begging for help after being abandoned in the desert. We’ve also heard about children being thrown off boats into the Rio Grande River as a diversion for law enforcement to help clear the way for smugglers on the ground. These are only the children we know about – I always think about the ones who weren’t lucky enough to be saved.

I recently visited some cattle ranchers in Nogales who live in a constant state of fear. Cartels and smugglers operate with near impunity around the ranchers’ lands, and their homes are routinely broken into where food, water, money, and valuables are stolen. Parents cannot let their children play alone outside. Border Patrol agents are unable to respond to many emergencies because agents are spread so thin.

Even when migrants make it across the border, the nightmare is not over. They are often forced to pay off their debt to the cartels through drug dealing or sex trafficking. This is not the better life they were promised. This is not America.

I will not sit by and let this continue without doing everything in my power to reverse the catastrophe.

DHS Interim Guidance to Halt Deportations

We are suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over its adoption of Interim Guidance that stops the majority of ICE deportations and arrests. This policy directly violates federal law, which expressly requires aliens with final removal orders to be deported within 90 days. 

There has been a nearly 50 percent drop in ICE deportations and arrests since the Interim Guidance was implemented at the direction of President Biden. This means that individuals charged with or convicted of serious crimes are being released into our communities without any warning to the public.

ICE is also not picking up convicted individuals from state prisons after the conclusion of their sentences, even though they have detainers on them. As a result, the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry is being forced to release these criminals and place them on community supervision at risk and expense to Arizona taxpayers. Examples of individuals released in Arizona with criminal convictions include: misconduct involving weapons, armed robbery, aggravated DUI, drug violations, and arson.

Why would the Biden Administration implement such misguided policies? Through our lawsuit, we’ve obtained internal emails from advocacy groups to the White House demanding an end to ICE detentions and deportations for migrants illegally crossing the border. There is strong evidence to suggest the Administration is caving to intense pressure from outside advocacy groups who wish to abolish ICE, and the policies being imposed on ICE officials are strategic capitulations to these advocacy groups. 

NEPA

As a proud Arizonan who grew up in the Phoenix area, I have always been taught to respect and protect our beautiful desert landscape and precious resources for generations to come. The current crisis at our border is clearly damaging the ecosystem and undermining Arizona’s natural beauty.

Trash from migrants in Arizona desert

Trash from migrants in desert

Our office is suing the Biden Administration for violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by stopping border wall construction and reversing the “Remain in Mexico” immigration policy. It’s estimated that each migrant leaves 6-8 pounds of trash in the desert when he/she crosses.

NEPA requires the federal government to study environmental impacts -- the good, the bad, and the ambiguous -- before taking major federal actions. That didn’t happen before the President drastically halted construction on already approved segments of the border wall.

Public Charge Rule

We are asking the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to uphold the Public Charge Rule, which requires those seeking U.S. Citizenship or a green card to demonstrate they are financially capable of supporting themselves.

This is a commonsense policy that has existed in some form in our country for over 100 years and it ensures our government welfare programs are not overrun and can continue to support Americans in need of help.

SCOTUS previously agreed to hear the case under the former administration, but when President Biden took office, he suddenly dropped legal defense of the Public Charge Rule. Once again, the new administration strategically surrendered to activist lawsuits.

Fighting to Uphold Rule of Law

Regardless of one's position on immigration, we should all agree that what is happening now is the furthest thing from progress and humanitarianism. The reckless violation of federal laws is creating one crisis after another. The people of Arizona and other border states are on the front lines and are being hit the hardest now, but the problem will not end here. It threatens our entire country.  

Mark Brnovich with Mark Lamb

Mark Brnovich with PCSO Sheriff Mark Lamb.

Ultimately, any discussion about our immigration system must start with enforcing existing laws. Unfortunately, the Biden Administration’s policies are incentivizing, decriminalizing, and monetizing illegal behavior. This disregard for the rule of law is not what America is about and it should never be anyone’s first experience when they arrive here. This border crisis is a tragedy on so many levels. It must be stopped now or the damage to our country will last for decades to come.

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