Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 13, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

Immigration Summit


  • Governor Napolitano has organized an immigration summit Tuesday in Flagstaff. State and federal law enforcement officials are expected to develop proposals for cracking down on illegal immigration and related crime.
Guests:
  • Dora Schriro - Director, State Department of Corrections


View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
Tonight on "Horizon", Arizona state and local law enforcement leaders meet with federal government officials to look at how they can work together to deal with illegal immigration while fighting crime. Plus, the impacts of the Cave Creek Complex fire and the efforts to rehabilitate the burn area. Those stories, next on "Horizon".

>>Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by the friends of Channel 8, members who provide financial support to this Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>> Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant. Welcome to "Horizon". First up, in the news, Arizona's Attorney General announced this afternoon a $10,000 reward for information leading to the a arrest of the leader of a polygamist church. Warren Jeffs has not been seen publicly in months. He was indicted last month. Attorney General Terry Goddard said Jeffs could be in one of a number of western states. Capturing Jeffs is considered to be key in ending turmoil in the towns of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale Utah, where men marry one wife legally and then take on other women as so-called spiritual wives. And high school sophomores who took the AIMS test last year did significantly better than the students the year before. The state released the latest AIMS test results this week. Schools say tutoring and a growing realization that students must pass the test to graduate are factors for the higher scores. The test itself also has changed since last year's scores were released. Questions were rewritten and scoring is more relaxed.

>>> The goal, gaining additional federal resources in Arizona and developing solutions for the statewide problem of illegal immigration. A joint meeting of state, county and local criminal justice leaders along with federal immigration officials took place in Flagstaff yesterday. Meantime, demonstrators marched outside expressing concerns about the relationship between the Hispanic community and law enforcement. State lawmakers also showed up to show their dissatisfaction with the summit called by Governor Napolitano. Actions to curb crime related to illegal immigration were presented.

>> Roger Vanderpool:
Such things as cooperative planning efforts, U.S. border patrol, DPS, Maricopa County sheriff's office, in developing the governor's and DPS' concept of a 12 man regional immigration support enforcement unit. This will take some further study and some further meetings to actually bring this all together. Also, the need to concentrate more on stolen vehicles used to transport illegal immigrants. And a task force that's being developed to define a strategy to address those issues. The Department of Corrections has a three-part program to address the issue of criminal aliens that are already in custody of DOC and are going to be working with ICE on those issues.

>> Michael Grant:
Here to talk about that three-part program is the director of the state Department of Corrections, Dora Schriro. Also here to talk about how law enforcement officers are involved in this picture, Joe Shelley, president of the Arizona Police Association. Welcome to you both. Dora, okay, as I understand this, the three-part approach is you've got a front-end problem. You've got a back-end problem and kind of an overall problem on the fact feds aren't paying what they - money problem. The front-end problem, one of the points you're making here is that federal jurisdiction could be used more frequently on more of these people to prosecute them federally and incarcerate them federally rather than leaving them to the state system.

>> Dora Schriro:
We've got upwards of 4200 illegal aliens who have committed felonies in the Department of Corrections today. About a third of them over 1250 could be prosecuted in the federal system because they have been deported from this country, reentered the country illegally and committed felony crimes. Some of those whose crimes that they commit are aggravated felonies would be eligible for up to a 20-year sentence in the federal system if they were prosecuted through the federal courts.

>> Michael Grant:
But instead, the feds don't exercise that jurisdiction leaving them to the state system to prosecute whatever the crime was.

>> Dora Schriro:
One of the things we heard about yesterday and have begun to talk about are the scarcities of resources by all of the partners in this problem solving process and the U.S. attorney general's office is frequently short of prosecutors to handle some of those cases. Earlier than that, frequently when an illegal alien is identified as being eligible for federal prosecution, if an ice agent isn't available to respond, then Joe and his colleagues pick up that slack and that person gets moved immediately into the state system. So we've got meetings set up to see what we can do to start to whittle down that front-end issue. If there are improvements, our population over time could drop by as much as a third and that's great news.

>> Michael Grant:
I want to get back to a couple of other issues. Let me invite you into the conversation here. I don't know that I heard a whole lot of brand new stuff coming out of this summit. I heard a lot of discussion about some of the proposals offered by the governor, the 12-man force, that kind of thing. What happened? It didn't seem to produce much news, perhaps it was not intended to produce much news but I thought part of it was, all right, let's brain storm some additional ideas.

>> Joe Shelley:
I think one thing that happened is it opened up communication lines between state, local and federal authorities. When Dora was speaking, it opened up a lot of eyes as to what was going on at all up there. A lot didn't know. Especially at the local and sheriff's level, county level. There are some promises up there how to handle some of the issues of housing these prisoners. I think Sheriff Arpaio came up with one suggestion. The taxpayers are paying for these things.

>> Michael Grant:
Wasn't the sheriff's idea was to build tents from here to the Mexico border.

>> Joe Shelley:
That was thrown out. It was a summit that should have been held a couple years ago.

>> Michael Grant:
Joe, I would never argue against communication, and we're all happy to see it occur, but everybody is going to retire to their corner, they're going to say we've got too few resources to apply to our share of the problem. So what turns good communication into some good attacks, maybe new approaches on the problem?

>> Joe Shelley:
I think the communications is the first portion of it. When we start opening up and finding out exactly where our issues really lie, at all different levels, once we start understanding the needs and throw those into the mix, then we can start attacking some of those issues.

>> Michael Grant:
None of those came out this week?

>> Joe Shelley:
Some of the ideas came out, this was no pun intended, but these are ice-breaking issues. We need to get in there and find out what our needs are. And some of the issues were brought forth. Brought forward to the state and local officials and vice versa. And at the same time some of the local people are coming forward with their thoughts and ideas on these issues.

>> Dora Schriro:
I feel like we walked away with more we walked in the front door with, which is great. We talked about the front-end problem. At the back end we have a considerable number of inmates, 550 who could be deported today but for the lack of the deportation materials. We offered to do some of the work, when it's done by ICE and have come to an agreement that our staff is going to be trained by ICE. We have started to talk about a memorandum of understanding so that we can continue. I suggested that I was not only interested in fixing the bottle necks but putting systems and processes in place that we can count on for the long haul so that things don't continue to break down.

>> Michael Grant:
Quantify those people. They're illegal aliens, incarcerated for a set of crimes. It could be released early but they can't be so you're still holding on to them. I as a taxpayer am still paying for them.

>> Dora Schriro:
About $27,000 a day. Just the 550 folks who could be, should be deported. We've got a meeting in place and I think we're going to get a lot of action on this. That's great for cleaning up the backlog and great for this kind of build-up to occur down the road.

>> Michael Grant:
Joe, the legislature obviously pass aid bill that would have allowed local entities, counties, city, those kinds of things, an option to enforce federal immigration laws. Governor vetoed it. Was that subject discussed at the meeting?

>> Joe Shelley:
It really wasn't discussed in the open, we weren't discussing those kind of issues. This summit was to let law enforcement open up with each other and come across the hidden lines that have been in place between federal, state, and local authorities. That's what the summit was about, to open up the communication lines. It wasn't about legislative issues, it wasn't about who is taking what stance on what issue, it was "we have an issue, how are we going to address that issue."

>> Michael Grant:
Legislature comes up with an idea, could be good or bad, I've been following it long enough to know it runs the gamut. But it is an idea, it is a new concept. It would seem strange not to talk about it, either trash it or talk it up.

>> Joe Shelley: I think that we're taking the criminal justice stance to it on the legislative end. This issue has been going on for a great number of years. If we start looking at it purely from a legislative standpoint and not from all aspects of it, if we don't look at who the players are, all the issues that are involved with the separate players, all we are doing is putting a band-aid on a small sore. Once this communication has started, to expand the program to keep everybody involved. Communication is key for all of us. Not only to open the communication lines between state and local levels, but between each other as well.

>> Michael Grant:
Speaking of opening up, was it a correct decision to keep this thing closed?

>> Dora Schriro:
You know, I can't speak to that. I can tell you that for the time that I've been in Arizona, within two weeks of me coming to this state, folks said, law enforcement pow-wow is going to meet in Flagstaff. Every year this state has a tradition of law enforcement, typically at the state and local level only, coming together to deal with criminal justice issues. This summit was scheduled to coincide with the pow-wow. So this is -

>> Michael Grant:
Is it closed routinely?

>> Dora Schriro:
It's not closed, but nobody wants to come in. Our problems have been our problems to solve.

>> Michael Grant:
You frequently will direct attention to a side bar issue by doing something like that. Which tends to weaken the overall credibility of the conference. If you pop the doors, then we're not going to run video of legislators standing outside demanding access.

>> Dora Schriro:
I think all Joe and I can say is it was a great conversation. People got together, spoke with one another as colleagues in corrections and law enforcement, and in criminal justice. I'm not sure that would have happened if there were other points of view also represented.

>> Michael Grant:
Was it necessary, you think, to the communication access, that the doors were closed?

>> Joe Shelley:
I don't think there was a hidden agenda where we wouldn't allow the secrecy or whatever was going on. I think the time factor was very critical for all of us. The department heads, chiefs of police, director, sheriffs of all local agencies were all there and participating in this type of an issue. The scheduling is critical for them, to allow someone to come in and take that time would be a distraction to the entire process. We have limited time, a lot of people to come in, and bringing the feds in on this issue, as well. What is our main goal here? And to make it start flowing? I agree, I think that was an excellent job by the director of DPS. I think that they accomplished that goal. They got the communications flowing.

>> Michael Grant:
We have touched on two of three of the points you brought up. The third was the money issue.

>> Joe Shelley:
Money, money, money.

>> Michael Grant:
$70 million short, that's what it cost for the 4,000-plus in the system?

>> Dora Schriro:
We have about 4200 illegal aliens incarcerated today. Arizona taxpayers are spending a quarter million dollars every day to house that population. There's a federal appropriation that gives us some small reimbursement for these. About 9\% these days. For every dollar, for every dollar of the quarter million that we spend daily, the federal government gives us back about 9 cents. Last year, we paid, everyone in Arizona, over $77 million to house this population. And got back from the federal government less than $7 million.

>> Michael Grant:
Other than sending them invoices, please pay this at your convenience --

>> Dora Schriro:
It's Past due.

>> Michael Grant:
Is there any way to get them to pay it?

>> Dora Schriro:
I don't know. I'm concerned quite frankly if the governor's -- excuse me, the president's -- included in the president's budget--is no money for staff. A congressional delegation is working hard to restore, but also to increase them. At this point in time, there is no change in the budget, so a bad situation could get worse.

>> Michael Grant:
Thank you very much for joining us.

>> Dora Schriro:
Thank you.

>> Michael Grant:
Firefighters have the Cave Creek Complex fire 100\% contained, although sporadic flames could burn for the next few months. What began June 21st as two lightning-caused fires crew into the second largest wildfire in Arizona history burning more than 248,000 acres north of the valley. The price tag so far? $16.5 million. In a moment, I'll talk to a desert fire expert about the ecological impact. First, Paul Atkinson profiles the damage from the fire.

>> Paul Atkinson:
The Cave Creek complex fire grew from two separate lightning caused fires into one hellacious firestorm. 11 cabins and numerous other structures in Camp Creek burned in the initial hours. Firefighters stopped the flames from endangering homes to the south, but the north burns for miles. Difficult terrain and high temperatures complicated efforts to stop the Cave Creek Complex fire. Flames and resulting smokes, darkness where sun light normally fell. By the time the fire was officially contained, more than 248,000 acres had burned, making the Cave Creek complex fire the second largest in state history and the largest desert fire in the southwest. Flooding from monsoon rain is seen as an immediate threat. Then there's the worry about further damage caused by humans.

>> Carol Engle:
One of our very major concerns, you can see this area has opened up. There are a lot of places where everything has burned. We're afraid people will come out in ATVs and create new roads, and keep the vegetation from growing back.

>> Paul Atkinson:
The fire area remains closed to the public, and park rangers will cite trespassers. Unlike forests where fire is natural, this is not common in desert ecosystems. It will be decades before this burnt landscape can be trance formed into anything resembling desert.

>> Michael Grant:
Joining me now is Eddie Alford, a natural resources specialist with the Tonto National Forest. Dr. Alford has studied the effects of fire on desert ecosystems. Thanks for being here. We've had wet winters before. We were talking about this before we went on the air. Which, of course, leads to an outburst in desert vegetation. It sure seems like we have never had a desert level fire season like the one we have had this year. Is that my imagination?

>> Eddie Alford:
Thanks, Mike, that's a topic near and dear to my heart. I appreciate being able to discuss this with you. Yeah, I guess we have really been caught, there's been several years of drought that led up to this year. I want to make sure I'm clear, typically, what I'll be talking about is the ecosystem that's characterized by Saguaro, Palo Verde, and those cacti type vegetation types.

>>Michael Grant:
Give me an elevation. Below 3,000?

>> Eddie Alford:
That's correct, below 3,000 to probably 2000 feet. You're right, this year has been an incredible year. The Sonoran desert is not like other ecosystems when it comes to fire. For some of the other ecosystems, like Timber, Woodlands, fire is part of their functioning, it's one of the functions in their ecosystem.

>> Michael Grant:
We learned more about that.

>> Eddie Alford:
It helps to thin them and control insect and disease. The Arizona subdivision is not like that, they don't have the fire-adapted characteristics, the Arizona upland desert ecosystem does not. The plants aren't adapted to fire, especially high-intensity fire and just the spacing of plants is not something that has adapted with fire.

>> Michael Grant:
Did it contribute to this one that you did have the very heavy -- I mean, certainly they were above average, well-above average precipitation. And did you fill in a lot more plant life than you otherwise would have?

>> Eddie Alford:
It had to do with the fuels that were produced this last winter. We've gone through a period of pretty dry winters from about 1996, so we haven't had -- 1996. So we really haven't had the plants that fill in the inner spaces between native vegetation and the Sonoran desert. So you ask, what about native conditions when we have annual wild flowers? And that's, that's a little different. Wild flowers are produced after a wet winter and the native wild flowers will dissolve into the soil when it gets really hot. The difference is tat, what we had this year was production of some of the exotic grasses. And it doesn't behave like some of the native wild flowers. It actually stays erect in those inner spaces and it becomes, it cures out and becomes very flammable and it carries fire through these inner spaces and so you have a large fire in no time.

>> Michael Grant:
One of the concerns immediately with fires of this nature is the monsoon may be here any time; certainly we hope that we get more water. But you've lost, I mean that can lead to some very serious consequences on land charred as badly as this stuff has been charred.

>> Eddie Alford:
We have a concern with soil there, the plants that are there, intercept the water and slow down the flow of water on a water shed. With the loss of these plants, we'll expect, a lot of that water will run down the slope and take a lot of the soil with it.

>> Michael Grant:
Anything you can do about that in the short run? Or is that just gonna have to be the way it is?

>> Eddie Alford:
We try to provide proper drainage where we can. Some of the areas where we've had some of the control lines and some of the heavy equipment lines that they used in their operations to suppress the fire; they'll seed and try to create some dikes that will slow the water down a little bit. But we're still going to lose a vast area.

>> Michael Grant:
Band aid type stuff. I don't mean to minimize the effort. One of the things that I think we all learned with the forest fires was that in the wake of a forest fire really a different forest comes back, nature has a different way of sort of filling the gap. Ultimately, you may return to a Ponderosa Pine forest. How does the desert come back after fires of this nature? Does it come back pretty much the same with the same kind of vegetation it had before or does it have this phenomena that it goes through almost stages getting back to where it was?

>> Eddie Alford:
Well, that's a real concern. The recovery is a concern because of the slow growing characteristics of native vegetation. The Saguaro takes 20 to 40 years to reach a meter in height. And so -

>> Michael Grant:
Other plants that?

>> Eddie Alford:
What happens, though, when have you a fire, the concern is you remove these native plants and fill the inner spaces with some of these exotics and that would change the fire regime and maybe change the vegetation type.

>> Michael Grant:
Dr. Alford, thank you.

>> Eddie Alford:
Thank you.

>> Michael Grant:
To see transcripts of "Horizon" and find out about upcoming topics, go to our website at www.az.pbs.org.

>> Mike Sauceda:
PBS, the nation's public broadcasting service, has been under fire lately. The head of the corporation for public broadcasting has said PBS has a liberal bias. We hear from the president of PBS about those issues and others concerning PBS Thursday at 7 on "Horizon".

>> Michael Grant:
Thank you for joining us on this Wednesday evening. I'm Michael Grant. I hope you have a great one. Good night.

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