Four Tucson women were recently sentenced to more than a year of probation and a $250 fine each for trespassing in the remote Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge near the U.S. border with Mexico.
Trespassing was the charge, but the foursome’s real crime, according to federal law enforcement officials, was leaving life-saving, gallon jugs of water and cans of beans along a well-worn footpath used extensively by illegal immigrants sneaking into this country.
The women trespassed specifically to leave the water and food, in large part because thousands cross the border but few have with them the resources to survive in Southern Arizona’s pristine but potentially deadly environment.
In 2017 alone, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended just more than 303,000 illegal crossers of the border that stretches from Texas to California — but that is roughly 700,000 less than were apprehended a decade ago.
No one can accurately know how many of immigrants die in the desert each year, but in Tucson’s own Pima County, nearly 3,000 remains have been found in the desert, which when combined with wild creatures, has a way of concealing such human remains.
President Trump continues his border wall campaign mantra, insisting there is an emergency at America’s border with Mexico. The president is correct, but for the wrong reasons.
The emergency involves the separation of families at the border, the housing of thousands of children in border camps or retention centers, and the resulting wave of sexual abuse allegations against mostly children. As of last month, more than 11,000 migrant toddlers, children and teens were in federal custody.
California officials may have had their fill of the federal approach. The office of state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra has compiled a lengthy report, which boils down to this — detainees confined to federal immigration detention facilities in California have inadequate access to health care, and face long periods of confinement without relief.
Becerra’s report is the first of 10 ordered by the Legislature requiring the inspection of all federal immigration detention facilities in California. The reporting requirement is one of three immigration-related “sanctuary state” laws passed in 2017. The Trump administration unsuccessfully challenged the policy package in court.
What Becerra’s report really indicates is that the bulk of the problem rests with the federal government, whose oversight of immigrant detention centers is, at best, sorely lacking, and at worst, inhumane.
The report also adds data to the dispute growing between California and the Trump administration, and the issue escalated late last month when California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered withdrawal of the state’s National Guard contingent at the border. Newsom said at the time that he did not want California to be part of President Trump’s “manufactured crisis.”
The troop pullback wasn’t large in number, only 360 soldiers, but the message to Washington was crystal clear. Newsom said the troops will be redeployed to fight wildfires, expand the state's Drug Task Force, and collect intelligence on drug cartels. Governors of several other states are making the same move.
Let’s face it, California businesses rely on immigrant labor, and that is especially true here in North County. Shutting off that supply of workers, for whatever reason, could have catastrophic consequences for the local, state and national economies.
We understand that Americans are bitterly divided over immigration policy, but it is an issue that must be addressed by Congress and the president. Doing it at the local and state levels is a patchwork approach that ignores the overall problem.
America needs a national immigration policy that serves the needs of everyone.