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Jan Brewer On Arizona’s Agony (But Not What’s Behind It)
Background to Arizona’s February 28 presidential primary: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was photographed recently in the midst of a heated exchange with President Obama at a Phoenix airport. The President had been thin-skinned enough to be upset by the book’s description of him as “thin-skinned” in her book, Scorpions for Breakfast: My Fight Against Special Interests, Liberal Media, and Cynical Politicos to Secure America’s Border. But Brewer stood up to him, finger wagging, and he stalked off without listening to the rest of what she had to say. (On Sunday’s Meet The Press, Brewer announced that she is endorsing Mitt Romney, who specifically praised Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration legislation in the last GOP candidate’s debate. She also defended her skipping the White House dinner held that night, prior to Obama’s meeting with the National Governors Association).
Amazon sales of Brewer’s book which occasioned the contretemps jumped two million percent overnight.
So what’s in her book? The story that Brewer lays is compelling and she has performed a patriotic service since the disgraceful details have been typically glossed over by the pro-immigration Main Stream Media. It’s essential background to understanding Arizona’s agony—but it won’t tell you what’s behind it.
The people of those border regions had had quite enough, and the Clinton Administration listened. Fences were built, patrols beefed-up, infrared night scopes and motion sensors installed in those two areas. It worked. In El Paso, apprehensions fell by about 85 percent, in San Diego by over 75 percent.
The idea behind concentrating enforcement in these urban areas was, as Brewer explains, “to push illegal crossers into more remote areas where they would have to make long, arduous crossings and would presumably be easier to apprehend.” Unfortunately for Arizona, the prospect of a more difficult and dangerous journey to the US proved insufficient to deter illegals completely, especially once drug-related violence became endemic in their native land. So Arizona now receives about half of America’s illegal entrants.
In earlier days, a Mexican might, for a few hundred dollars, hire a “mom-and-pop” guide to help him across the border. But the increasing difficulty and danger of the task has raised the stakes. The contemporary smuggler, or “coyote,” charges two thousand dollars or more per person and leads groups of twenty, fifty or a hundred people at a time. This has attracted a far more brutal criminal element to the business.
The trek is usually around sixty or seventy miles through some of the roughest terrain in America. “In remote areas of Arizona,” explains Gov. Brewer, “you can walk through the desert for hours without seeing any people, roads or buildings. There are rattlesnakes and scorpions. The sun is relentless and water is nonexistent.”
An injury—even a slight one—can mean the difference between life and death. Drug cartel coyotes think nothing of leaving behind the sick or injured, and the Border patrol routinely comes upon their decomposed remains. Since 2001, the bodies of more than 2100 men, women and children have been found.
The mountaintops round about are infested with hundreds of so-called spotters—cartel members who monitor smuggling routes with have GPS and night-vision goggles. Two to three hundred of these spotters are in the hills, often deep within US territory, at any given time. They use encrypted satellite radios to communicate with the “coyotes” leading human trains of drug mules across the desert, letting them know if it is safe to pass or if thieves, rivals or Border Patrol agents are on their route. Spotters are armed with high-powered weapons, including, in at least one case, shoulder-fired rocket launchers. If they see a US official or a rival gang member, they may simply report it—or they may shoot.
Once an illegal arrives, he is usually taken to a “drop house.” Phoenix area law enforcement has turned up 600 of these so far, many of them rented. One contained 108 illegal aliens. To prevent escapes, windows are boarded up and illegal aliens may be forced to remove their clothes. One night in 2008, Phoenix police received a bizarre report concerning fifty naked and bloodied people running down a street. They turned out to be a group of illegal aliens who had succeeded in overpowering their captors and breaking out of a drop house.
These houses are used for holding illegal aliens until smugglers have received enough money to let them go. This often means much more than the two to three thousand dollars typically agreed upon beforehand.
Many illegal aliens have working relatives in the US who can be subjected to extortion. One enterprising smuggler created a “torture room” within his drop house. He would call up a migrant’s US relatives and let them listen to the migrant being beaten and pleading for his life. Unsurprisingly, this technique proved highly profitable.
The sums involved have gotten so large that the criminals have begun to prey upon one another. In November 2003, one gang had its human cargo hijacked by a rival gang near Tucson. As the hijackers drove off, the original smugglers followed. It was rush hour, about eight thirty in the morning; a high speed chase ensued on I-10, the well-traveled main highway between Tucson and Phoenix. The smugglers gradually “pulled up alongside the hijackers and opened fire—still speeding up the freeway—with automatic weapons. The back and forth gunfight continued along the freeway for more than thirty miles” until held up by the Phoenix rush hour traffic. Four bodies were scattered along the I-10 median strip; one man was found crouched on the ground holding the toe which had gotten blown off his foot in the fight. [CBP Border Patrol agents capture shooters in Arizona desert, CBP Today - October/November 2003]
Smugglers also kidnap each other. While a common migrant is worth only two thousand dollars or so in ransom, a professional smuggler can fetch between ten and fifty thousand dollars. Sometimes a gang will break in to a rival gang’s drop house, kill the guards, and take over the payments made by the illegal aliens.
Three million pounds of marijuana was seized by the Border patrol in 2010, with a street value of over $2 billion dollars. Seizures of hard-core drugs are also up: methamphetamine by 20 percent, heroin by 40 percent and cocaine by 90 percent. Given that only an estimated one-in-four illegal crossers is apprehended, the total quantity of drugs coming into the country must be astronomical.
The average illegal also leaves about six to eight pounds of trash along his trail, mostly water bottles, backpacks, food wrappers, diapers and human waste. This adds up to around two thousand tons each year. “Federal and state agencies, ranchers and volunteers have conducted massive cleanups,” writes Gov. Brewer, “but the trash just keeps on coming.”
The cost of illegal immigration to Arizona taxpayers—in the form of schooling, medical care, crime and incarceration, environmental degradation and legal fees—is incalculable, but certainly runs into the billions.
SB 1070 hardly came out of nowhere. As early as 2004, Arizona passed a ballot initiative called Proposition 200 which required proof of citizenship for those registering to vote, proper identification at the polls, and proof of eligibility to receive certain welfare benefits. 56 percent of voters supported the measure, including 47 percent of Latinos. Jan Brewer was Arizona secretary of state at the time, and fought legal battles to see the law implemented.
In 2007, the Arizona legislature passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act. It requires employers to use the E-Verify system to ensure that all their employees are in the country legally. It was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Jan Brewer became governor of Arizona in January 2009, when Napolitano left to take charge of the Department of Homeland Security. Brewer was a Republican with a good track record of fiscal responsibility, but otherwise lacked any strong political profile. She had supported earlier border enforcement measures, but had not been in the forefront of campaigning for them.
Gov. Brewer’s early border security efforts were largely wasted in petitions for help from the federal government. Like many founding-stock Americans, she retains a curious faith in the US Constitution, and notes that Article IV, Section 4 imposes on the federal government the duty to protect each state against “Invasion and...domestic Violence.” (It’s just a matter of time before somebody interprets this last term to mandate a national network of federally funded “women’s shelters.”) Believing the law means what it says, she wrote five letters to various officials in Washington between March 2009 and June 2010. All went unanswered.
The federal government has persistently refused to pay Border States the money it owes them under a 1994 program for helping defray the cost of jailing illegal aliens. Obama actually cut funding for the program. Gov. Brewer attempted to confront the president about this when he visited Arizona in May 2009: “He was very cool to me. In fact, he blew me off.” She responded by ordering the state Department of Corrections to start returning nonviolent criminal aliens to the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. To date, more than 23,000 criminals have been handed over.
Moreover, Brewer notes that rejection rates for Mexicans seeking tourist visas have fallen from 32 percent to 11 percent under the Obama administration. She characterizes the President’s record on border control as “promise something; do nothing; blame someone,” calling it “an elaborate Kabuki theater designed to conceal a concerted policy of [inaction].”
Versions of what would become SB 1070 had been proposed every year since 2003 by state representative Russell Pearce. Twice, in 2006 and 2008, such bills were actually passed by the legislature, only to be vetoed by Gov. Napolitano.
The impetus for passage of SB 1070 was given by the March 27, 2010 murder of rancher Rob Krentz, who was shot on his own land by an illegal alien to whom he had been trying to offer assistance.
The bill passed the Arizona House of Representatives on April 13 and received final approval from the Senate on April 19. This is when all hell broke loose. Protests erupted around the country; boycotts were announced even before the bill was signed; the Arizona Capitol was besieged by a baying rabble of students and union thugs, many bussed in from out of state. SWAT teams took up positions on the roofs of state buildings as police helicopters hovered overhead. Gov. Brewer’s security detail had to surround her and rush her out the back door in the midst of one meeting with the “Hispanic community.”
Finally, on the afternoon of April 23rd, Gov. Brewer signed SB 1070 into law. The event took place at the Arizona Department of Transportation Building because that “was the only place where my team could create a controlled environment.” Gov. Brewer explains the gist of the law as follows:
SB 1070 creates a state penalty for what is already a federal crime: being in the United States illegally. Since 1940, all immigrants have been required under federal law to carry documents showing they are here legally. SB 1070 makes it a misdemeanor in the state of Arizona to fail to carry such documentation. Its language mirrors language found in the federal statute. It allows (but does not require) a law enforcement officer in the course of making a lawful stop such as a traffic violation to inquire about a person’s legal status—but only if the individual’s behavior and circumstances provide reasonable suspicion that the person is here illegally.
“Racial profiling” is, of course, specifically prohibited. The law also prohibits “sanctuary cities” and the hiring of day laborers in public places.
The mob surrounding the State house hanged her in effigy, calling her “Satan’s whore,” “Hitler’s daughter” and various other things she is too gracious to repeat. Nazi imagery became so widespread that Abe Foxman began complaining of trademark violations.
But despite all the noise from the other side, SB 1070 enjoys the support of 70 percent of Arizonans (Rasmussen Poll, May 2010).
In November, 2010, Jan Brewer was re-elected Governor of Arizona with 55 percent of the vote.
Due to continued legal challenges, SB 1070 has still never been enforced. The best sign of the law’s influence may be that nearly half the states in America have passed or are considering similar measures.
Jan Brewer is probably the closest thing America has left to a citizen politician. Here entry into public life was motivated by disgust at the “appalling lack of common sense” she encountered at local school board meetings. Her husband suggested that if she wanted to influence education, she would have to run for the Arizona State legislature, which she did successfully in 1983.
The phrase “doing the right thing” recurs frequently in her memoirs, and she seems long to have retained an ingenuous desire to convince her opponents of the honorableness of her intentions. Slowly, she is learning: “I guess I was naive to think we could avoid being called racists.”
I was surprised to find myself so charmed by a politician’s book—which she no doubt didn’t write herself, but which certainly she takes responsibility for. (Peter Brimelow had a similar reaction to Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue.) While this account contains no sensational revelations, it does provide the reader with a readable summary of both Arizona’s recent immigration agony and its battle to put a stop to it (with the Obama Administration on the other side).
But Brewer still fails to betray the least suspicion that opposition to SB 1070 might be not be related to any alleged “civil rights” concerns—but sheer demographic warfare against the historic American nation.
F. Roger Devlin [Email him] is a contributing editor for The Occidental Quarterly and the author of Alexandre Kojeve and the Outcome of Modern Thought.