Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at a press conference near the San Luis II Commercial Port of Entry after touring the border wall installation with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on April 18, 2018. Photo courtesy Mani Albrecht/U.S. Customs and Border Protection
No one would ever confuse Doug Ducey with Donald Trump on the campaign trail, but when the governor talks about immigration issues, he has a downright Trumpian claim that he goes to time and again.
In a 30-minute sit-down interview Oct. 26 with Arizona Republic reporter Maria Polletta, Ducey continued to repeat the falsehood that he has uttered many times since his 2014 campaign: Arizona’s border with Mexico is essentially a lawless expanse of land that is putting every Arizonan at risk.
He made the claim to Polletta in response to a question about a surge in asylum-seekers at the southern border, saying that, while there are some situations where asylum is warranted, “I do think we’re in a situation right now where people know our southern border is wide open and unprotected.”
This, of course, is utter nonsense. There are roughly 20,000 border patrol officers for Customs and Border Protection — and 85 percent of those are in the Southwest border sectors. Since fiscal year 2005, the number of border patrol officers in the southwest has increased by nearly 70 percent. Correspondingly, the number of apprehensions — the figure used as a proxy for how many people are crossing illegally — has declined by 66 percent.
In Arizona alone, the Tucson and Yuma sectors, there are 4,550 border patrol officers as of fiscal year 2017 — more than any other sector in the country, and 60 percent more than there were in fiscal year 2005. Apprehensions are down 91 percent in Arizona in that time.
Ducey nonetheless loves to portray our southern border as some sort of Mad Max-ian wasteland where anarchy prevails. In late 2015, he used the specter of the lawless border as the impetus for the creation of the Border Strike Force, a bureau within the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
In March 2017, Ducey spoke at the National Review Institute’s annual Ideas Summit. “The border of Arizona is wide open and unprotected,” he said.
And in April of this year, when Trump called for National Guard troops to be deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border, Ducey accused the U.S. government of ignoring the border “for nearly a decade,” and told the Associated Press that drugs, immigrants and ammunition are flooding into Arizona because of “a wide-open and unprotected border here.”
In May, Ducey and four other GOP governors dined at the White House and discussed border security. The governor said a recent visit to Arizona by Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen allowed her to “see how wide open and unprotected our border is in southern Arizona.”
Ducey went on to tell Polletta that any solution to immigration issues starts with border security. “I think if we can answer that first, there’s all these other issues that can fall into line, from DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to asylum,” he said.
The governor blamed Congress for failing to act to address immigration issues, but conveniently neglected to mention that Trump has played a game of move-the-goalposts on immigration issues since becoming president. After calling on Republicans and Democrats to work together to resolve the Trump-made crisis over DACA and increase funding for border security, a bipartisan coalition of U.S. senators did just that.
And Trump rejected the plan, infamously telling the senators he wouldn’t support the bipartisan deal because it included provisions to allow “people from shithole countries” to come to America.
But as we’ve seen in the polling, nothing motivates an overwhelmingly white and older Republican voting base to back Republican candidates quite like fear of immigrants. In a year when the outcome of the U.S. Senate race between Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally is likely to come down to which voters show up to vote and which don’t, Ducey’s just doing his part to help drive GOP turnout.
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