Cartels made Phoenix U.S. ‘drug distribution center,’ McCain says

| 5/6/2011

U.S. Sen. John McCain said Wednesday that he’s “seen this movie before” when it comes to federal claims of a secure border between the U.S. and Mexico. In a Senate hearing, McCain criticized the Department of Homeland Security for not keeping up with escalating drug and smuggling cartel violence that has resulted in mass graves and executions of Mexican officials.

McCain, R-AZ, told Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano he remembered the U.S. giving amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants in 1986, “when we said we’d secure the borders.”

Today, millions of illegal immigrants enter the U.S. at Tucson. McCain said: “That’s not a secure border. Phoenix is the drug distribution center for the nation.”

Wednesday’s hearing was conducted by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, and was titled “Securing the border.”

“You may not trust the word of (Cochise County, AZ Sheriff) Larry Dever and these sheriffs – that’s fine,” McCain told Napolitano. “But we trust them. They are the law enforcement officers that are there dealing with these issues every single day. I agree that there have been improvements, and I’m grateful for those improvements. But I’d argue that they have not kept up with the escalation of violence on the other side of the border.”

Napolitano told McCain of her commitment.

“With respect, there is no one that has spent more time on this the last few years …”

“There is no one that has spent more time on this issue than me,” McCain countered. “

Later, Napolitano was asked whether Mexico’s growing violence, particularly in its northern states, was spilling over into the U.S.

Napolitano acknowledged that Juarez must be “one of the one or two highest homicide rates in the world,” since Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office and didn’t make deals with cartels.

“While we have had isolated incidents of violence that has come into the United States from Northern Mexico, if you take a step back, the police reports and crime reports, etc., do not indicate that we have that spillover,” Napolitano said.

Wednesday’s hearing also saw continuation of the debate about DHS illegal immigration statistics. DHS claimed that this winter and spring there was a massive decline in illegal immigrants at the border, asserting the border situation has improved. 

Local police, however, disagree.

Two sheriffs of Arizona counties that border northern Mexico have said border patrol agents are being told not to arrest every illegal border crosser, reportedly in an effort to keep statistics down.

Napolitano refuted the claim, and also said her personal inspection of reports of 100 to 200 spotters at a time sitting in Arizona mountains guiding drug mules have proven to be only 200 locations in which spotters may sit.

“There are not 200 spotters sitting there,” she said.

Local 2544, the Tucson Sector chapter of the National Border Patrol Council, a border patrol agents’ union, and former union president T. J. Bonner have each repeated the claim about border agents not arresting all illegal immigrants found crossing the border.

National U.S. Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher has said the claims are “100 percent false.”