Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 31, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

Arizona's Border Crisis: A HORIZON Special


  • Watch this compilation of stories and interviews from HORIZON's recent four-part series on immigration.


View Transcript
>> Larry Lemmons:
We are a nation of immigrants. Huddled masses yearning to breath free have become symbolic of the essence of America's identity. Images of Ellis Island arrivals are burned into our national consciousness representing the American desire not only to be free but prosperous.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Today the image of the typical immigrant is different, about 100 years after Europeans arrived at Ellis island, the focus of migration has moved south to the border. [ speaking Spanish ]

>> Larry Lemmons:
Obviously it's unknown specifically how many people illegally cross the border each day, but their general characteristics are known. According to the pew Hispanic center, a little less than half of the young men crossing the border are single. The rest are mostly married couples.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Women, both single and in families and some with children are a growing part of the migration across the border. Undocumented migrants today are largely Latin American. By far, most undocumented migrants come from Mexico. Over all, about half of the Mexicans in the United States are unauthorized. The second largest source is El Salvador. Smaller numbers arrive from Asia, Canada, Europe and after. It's estimated there were 10.3 million undocumented immigrants in the country last year. Illegally crossing the border tends to be a young person's game. The undocumented are children and younger adults. Only 11\% are over 40. 17\% are under 18. 86\% of the undocumented have come here in the last 15 years. And as you can see by this map, there are many undocumented compared to the general population in the southern border states, shown in blue. But the highest ratios exist in Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Idaho.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Finally, in comparison to immigrants overall, there were 35.7 million foreign born in the United States last year. 61\% are legal permanent residents. Nearly 30\% of immigrants are undocumented. Since 1995, arrivals of unauthorized migrants have exceeded arrivals of legal immigrants. Most of the undocumented are coming here to work and are being employed by American companies in a variety of ways, such as farming and construction.

>>> Larry Lemmons:
In urban border areas, the strategy for slowing illegal border crossing has included the building of walls, like this one Nogales. Nevertheless, even walls aren't completely effective. One consequence is that more crossing is being done in the desert, resulting in fatal heat exhaustion. The border patrol has a search and rescue division that is designed to prevent death. Private citizens try to help.

>> Citizen:
I am trying to make a difference, a very small drop in a big ocean of a problem.

>> Larry Lemmons:
The latest surveillance technologies are being employed on the border to try to stop the flow of illegal border crossings. Even unmanned drones have been used, but these technologies haven't been able to stop the flow, and the valley drop houses are constantly being found where dozens of undocumented migrants are kept, sometimes in unsanitary conditions until they can be moved to other parts of the country. Those organizing this trade in human smuggling are called "coyotes." Sometimes violence has erupted on valley street between rival groups of human smugglers, prompting a concerted action between all levels of law enforcement, but specifically immigration and customs enforcement or "ice".

>> Citizen: Welcome to our shores. As you welcomed me when I was a stranger in Egypt.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Still, attempts by the federal government to halt the tide of undocumented migrant have not satisfied many. Recently the so-called minute men descended on the border expressing dissatisfaction with federal efforts and claimed the minute men presence was instrumental in stopping crossings.

>> Minuteman:
President Bush and Congress need start doing their job. Its getting old. $34 billion our country spends on non-citizens. It's getting old.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Some efforts have been successful in thwarting undocumented migrants, but so long as the promise of prosperity and freedom remains just across the border, there will be those willing to take a chance for a better future.

>> Jose Majeda:
I caught one, so they are looking to see if another one came across. Usually when one comes across, we'll have two or three that follow. Or one comes and it might be the guide, and they try coming across this area here to make it right to the interstate, crossover to the interstate and then they have vehicles parked on the street up there for them to get into. There is a helicopter off to my right. [ radio chatter ]

>> Jose Majeda:
We'll track it down. [ radio chatter ] There it is. See the helicopter right on top of it?

>> Merry Lucero:
Just minutes before, this man, jumped over the fence, which serves as the border between Nogales, Sonora Mexico and Nogales, Arizona. It's a scene that plays out on average more than 1100 times a day along Arizona's Tucson sector border.

>> Jose Majeda:
He will go through the process in the back. All 10 fingerprints will be taken there. His fingerprints will be checked against the national database for terrorism through NCIC, through FBI wants and warrants checks and maybe there might be an alert through CBP somewhere. If he has no criminal history, no immigration history, then he'll be offered the right to volunteer return to Mexico.

>> Immigrant:
I'm from Nogales. I had never crossed. I had a friend that helped me get here. He charged me $2,000. I paid him and he left me by the mountain. I walked for three days on the road and immigration didn't pick me up.

>> Merry Lucero:
At the Nogales detention facility, detainees are held for up to 12 hours where they are processed and wait for a hearing with a judge or political asylum officer. At this facility, the fence and other areas along both sides of the border are monitored with cameras and sensors.

>> Jose Majeda:
The unique thing about Nogales, it's like El Paso. The actual highway runs parallel to the border right here. Once you are on this highway here, in an hour you can be in Tucson.

>> Merry Lucero:
Four miles of corrugated steal left over from the Vietnam War make up the fence Nogales. Holes are routinely cut through it or dug under it. Beyond town, it's just barbed wire. Tucson sector covers 262 miles of the 375 mile border between Mexico and Arizona, roughly 80\% of the state. It's the biggest busiest sector in the country, but it wasn't always.

>> Michael Nicely:
In 1994, when we started with operation gatekeeper in San Diego, the Tucson sector had less than 300 agents. It really was a sleepy border patrol sector, and as we started adding personnel, infrastructure, resources to other sectors, we began moving traffic, and we moved it from the more favorable areas, like San Diego, Tijuana being the most favored place to stage, and basically we've shifted all that traffic over the last decade and a lot of it has come to Arizona.

>> Merry Lucero:
Tucson sector currently has about 2200 agents, and expects to have 2500 by next year, adding agents has been key.

>> Michael Nicely:
If we used high visibility patrol posture, they would beat us. We pulled back in places like San Diego and made interdictions as we could. Now we're resourced enough, we can execute the strategy of high visibility deterrence and defense in depth. If you do beat us on the line, you are going to get arrested. You are going to get arrested at some point in time before you make a successful entry.

>> Merry Lucero:
Also key, adding more barriers to crossing. Lateral access to the border for agents, cameras, sensors and technology, but Nicely says what is crucial is having layers of defense.

>> Michael Nicely:
It's not so much the barriers, as it is the infrastructure that allows them to come into the United States and go to the areas they are trying to go. You've got Tucson, you've got Phoenix. Transportation hubs and an interstate network that they can go all over the country. One of the reasons that it's been so difficult, I believe, to move the illegal entrants out of Arizona into and impress deterrence upon them is there is very few other places to go. They can't go and smuggle the amount of narcotics and the amount of people that they are in Arizona in New Mexico, for example. The infrastructure doesn't exist. The places to stage that contraband and those people on the north side of the border doesn't exist. So really, Arizona is really the last place where they can move the kind of cargo in the volume that they are moving it.

>> Sen. Jon Kyl:
The Tucson sector is the sector out of 20-some all along the border, that has half of all of the illegal immigration coming into the country today.

>> Michael Grant:
Numbers are just staggering?

>> Sen. Jon Kyl:
They are, indeed. So it's not only an explosion of numbers generally, including from other countries in the world, not just Mexico, and in addition to that, they were just slow getting the resources into the United States, and the smugglers continually and it's like the terrorists, they react to our techniques, and they get more clever about what they are doing. You can't believe the amount of violence at the border now. They are mixing smuggling trips with drugs, as well as illegal aliens, and the people who are doing it are very violent and just the worst people you can imagine now.

>> Michael Grant:
Well, witness, of course, the shootout that we had on Interstate 10 not so long ago, and ironically enough, the president of Mexico was in town. Why not New Mexico?

>> Sen. Jon Kyl:
Well, part of it has to do with the proximity and access to highway transportation and then eventually air transportation. We have a very good transportation grid here in Arizona, including from Santa Cruz and Cochise counties where a lot of this is occurring. Right up through Tucson and there are other routes as well through Benson. You've got the freeway going east. You've got also if you get up here or halfway between Tucson and Phoenix, the freeway going to San Diego and LA. And then between Phoenix and Tucson. It's a dream for anybody who wants a lot of options to get people up here.

>> Michael Grant:
The statistics that we saw there show that by far the largest block of illegal immigrants are coming from Mexico?

>> Lisa Magana:
Uh-huh.

>> Michael Grant:
Why?

>> Lisa Magana:
Well, I -- part of this idea of social network, obviously, the disparities between the two countries in terms of wealth and types of jobs that are provided by the economy. Certainly there are reasons why people come in terms of fulfilling labor needs, but I think that in many ways, the system is set up for a while, and I think that what's interesting about today's contemporary immigration is this idea of a dual identity, that the reality is that you are going to have a large population of Mexican nationals that are going to be living here, who may in fact legalize but who in fact may go back, but the reality is that they are going to stay here. And so this sort of dual identity at this time you are going to see continuing for the next 50 years.

>> Brian Gratton:
People probably don't want to leave their home countries. They are comfortable with families and cultures, but Mexico has continued to have over a very long period a special relationship with the United States in terms of workers coming across the border. It's over 100 years old. There is a disparity in wages.

>> Paul Atkinson:
At work, home, or school, illegal immigrants have become a regular part of our lives. Landscapers and maids, construction workers and janitors, restaurant cooks and mechanics, even students. The Hispanic Center estimates there are more than half a million immigrants living in Arizona.

>> Dawn McClaren:
They are willing to work really cheap. They are easy to hire and fire, they are not going to collect unemployment insurance or complain to the labor board. You are not going to have to pay them health benefits.

>> Paul Atkinson:
Dawn McClaren says our desire for cheap labor is not unlike our attraction to low-cost products.

>> Dawn McClaren:
I hate to say it, but it's a bit of a Wal-Mart thing. We like the cheaper goods, and if we want to be able to afford housing, if we want cheaper food, all of these things illegal immigrants contribute to, because they will build our houses, just as the employer does not have to pay those costly health benefits, they have passed that benefit down to the consumer, the person buying the house.

>> Paul Atkinson:
Quantifying the impact of such cheap labor is difficult. How much more would food, homes and services cost without them?

>> Randy Pullen: I hear this all the time, that I won't take a job for $7 an hour as a made, but if they'll pay me $10 an hour, I would be happy to be a made at that hotel. So what it really revolves around is, they undercut the cost of labor to employers and that's what they fill. They are willing to take the cheapest job available in our economy.

>> Paul Atkinson:
Randy Pullen advocates a tough approve to illegal immigration and sites the consequence illegal laborers have on native born workers.

>> Randy Pullen :
It provides cheap labor, but creates more unemployed Americans who won't work for that wage, who therefore take government services as an exchange instead of working.

>> Paul Atkinson:
Another consequence of immigrant labor is the loss of money to the local economy. A study by the Thunderbird school of the international management found 370,000 Mexican immigrants in Arizona undocumented send $486 million dollars to family members in Mexico in 2002. In fact, economists point out the total amount of such remittances make labor one of Mexico's top exports.

>> Dawn McClaren:
Mexico especially has an export good in their labor. They are exporting their labor and getting a return for it, because that money does end up going back to Mexico to Mexican families, to alleviate their poverty problem.

>> Paul Atkinson:
It's almost impossible to determine the exact cost of illegal immigration. Sure, there are numerous studies on the economic impact to healthcare, education and welfare, but few contain any hard numbers, most are only guesses and often skewed at that.

>> Dawn McClaren:
You get ideologies on both sides and they are coming out with figures that basically are based on assumptions that maybe are not valid. They are making a lot of assumption. They are jumping to conclusions about various figures. They are applying methodology that is probably not appropriate for -- especially for this particular population, and there is a lack of study of the population.

>> Paul Atkinson:
One cost that has a price tag is incarceration of legal and illegal immigrants in state prisons. Earlier this year, Governor Napolitano sent the U.S. Justice Department a bill for $71 million. That figure is one of the few that can be quantified. Other costs associated with illegal immigrants committing crimes aren't so easy to measure. In 2003, a third of Phoenix homicide reports, some 85 murders, mentioned illegal immigrants as suspects, victims or family members.

>> Randy Pullen:
How many house break-ins -- this is the, you know, the robbery capitol of the United States, literally. How many of those can be attributed to illegal aliens? It goes on and on and on. The impact is so pervasive; it's so overwhelming that we don't have a way of accounting for any of the real costs that are going on.

>> Paul Atkinson:
Most illegal immigrants lack medical insurance and rely on hospital emergency rooms for medical care. While there is no way to track the exact cost of healthcare, the federal government will reimburse Arizona hospitals some $45 million dollars this fiscal year, based on two factors. The percentage of undocumented immigrants living here, and the apprehension rate of illegal immigrants of which Arizona ranks first.

>> Randy Pullen:
It's just a portion of the costs of providing those services that they are getting reimbursed for. So it's a horrendous problem, and you don't have to look any further than the closing of hospital emergency rooms to understand what the impact is.

>> Paul Atkinson:
One impact difficult to assess is that of public education. Based on 2003-2004 school year figures, 15\% of students, some 147,000 were labeled as English language learners. In 2004, an average of $7100 was spent on all Arizona K-12 students, which would put the cost of English language learners at more than $1 billion. That does not include the extra cost to educate non-English speaking students. While many of the English language learners are children of illegal immigrants, there is no way to determine the exact number of children, because immigration status cannot be asked of students or their parents. The concern by many is that the cost of educating the children of undocumented immigrants is far greater than the amount of taxes they pay. Many illegal immigrants may not own property and pay taxes that way, but they do contribute taxes to local school districts.

>> Dawn McClaren:
These illegal immigrants are living somewhere. They can't buy a home, they don't pay property taxes directly, but they do rent a place, and when they are renting, the landlord is including the cost of the property insurance. And that property -- sorry, the property taxes. And if that property tax is being paid by the landlord, it is paying for the schools.

>> Paul Atkinson:
These are fake IDs confiscated by immigration agents. They were used to obtain jobs, jobs in which income as it, Social Security and Medicare taxes were taken out. However, because the Social Security numbers are fake, it's money that illegal immigrants will never see. The associate security administration's top actuary estimates that three quarters of all false identification numbers belong to illegal immigrants. And their payments to Social Security amount to about $7 billion a year and growing.

>> Dawn McClaren:
Well Social Security has billions of dollars now because of these unmatched funds and they have admitted that most of the unmatched funds are coming in from illegal I will aliens. You can see that that number over the last number of years has been exploding.

>> Paul Atkinson:
Dawn McClaren says that based on the figures she's seen, the overall economic impact of undocumented immigrants is a wash or slightly positive. Randy Pullen thinks illegal immigration has a negative economic impact.

>> Randy Pullen:
It's such a pervasive thing in our society because we don't keep track of those expenses. It's hard to say what the real cost is, but I think it's fair to say that the cost exceeds whatever economic value we get back for that.

>> Michael Grant:
Governor Napolitano has declared four southern Arizona counties a disaster area. That declaration freeing up $1.5 million of a $4 million fund that is normally used for natural disasters.

>> Marco Lopez:
For the most part, southern Arizona and particularly border counties are have been frustrated with the federal government's lack of attention to critical issues faced in those communities, and for many months now, and almost a year, the Governor has been calling or trying to call the attention of the federal government to this critical issue, but unfortunately have not -- those calls have not been heard. And I think this, indeed, does help raise the level of importance for those issues and hopefully now, Congress and the president will seriously focus on these critical issues.

>> Michael Grant:
Does that make it a political declaration, both with a capital P and also a small P?

>> Marco Lopez:
I don't think so, because these are real serious problems that are being faced by border communities. I was mayor of the city of Nogales, and I can tell you that for those people that live along the border, this is something that we face year in and year out and especially in the summer. Especially when you have over 250 people dying in the desert. That calls four the need to have serious -- take a serious look at some of these issues. When you have car thefts on the rise in Arizona due to them being associated to the drug and human smuggling trade, so, we've got serious issues, and they are not political.

>> Mike Sauceda:
When Republican representative Ray Barnes ran for the State house in 2002, he ran on a federal issue that he would only be able to address in an indirect matter, illegal immigration.

>> Rep. Ray Barnes:
Well, I was told when I ran, Mike, that I should not use -- secure the borders. I was the first one to put out literature secure the borders and somebody told me don't do that, because that gets people riled up. Well, I had an idea of what the district was standing for, and I said, no, this is a problem. This is a problem in the district, and I was the first one, I think, to put on my literature, pro-secure the borders. And it paid off. I think that was one of the things that got some attention. I was expecting the flag, but I never really got it.

>> Mike Sauceda:
Illegal immigration is an issue that constituents in his district, District 7 in the northeast valley deal with on a regular basis. It's the site of a Day Labor Center at Bell and Cave Creek. It's also an issue that is on the minds of State politicians especially after the passing of the proposition of Prop 200 in 2004 by a margin of 56 to 44\%.

>> Ray Barnes:
I think the major push this year has been because of the passage of proposition 200. People have gotten more gutsy now that they've seen -- they've got a 55\%, you know, that they can count on. So I think that, yeah, I think that proposition 200 helped put an awful lot of immigration bills on there.

>> Mike Sauceda:
Proposition 200 was designed to make it tougher for illegal immigrants to get certain government benefits and makes it harder for them to vote. During this past session, numerous bills were introduced to expand prop 200. Do lawmakers think about illegal immigration as a political issue when they propose legislation -- Barnes, whose adopted daughter is a legal immigrant from Haiti says that's not the case for him.

>> Ray Barnes:
I'm sure it's here somewhere, but not the thing I go down to the house for is how many Mexicans am I going to get. No, that isn't on my mind. I haven't introduced any bills about the legislation, legislation concerning the immigrants. Two years ago, and one year ago, I did put in some legislation to set up a patrol under the Department of Public Safety that did the same thing as the minutemen did, but it would put it under government control.

>> Mike Sauceda:
Wes Gullet is a political consultant for the firm of Hamilton, Gullet, Davis and Roman in Phoenix. He says that proposition 200 allowed politicians to grow more bold in their opposition to illegal immigration.

>> Wes Gullet:
There is no question in my mind that the anti-immigration folks were emboldened by Prop 200. They were more emboldened when it was at 75\% in favor, a little less emboldened when it was at 5.

>>Mike Sauceda:
Gullet says illegal immigration is an important issue for politicians.

>> Wes Gullet:
Because of the frustration, because of the level of frustration of the voters, they want to do something. So, if politicians talk about illegal immigration, then they will listen to that. They'll hear it, even if there is nothing that that person can do about illegal immigration, they'll be interested in voting for them, because they hear that discussion and that rhetoric coming from that person. Then people want something to happen, and when it doesn't happen, the frustration gets even higher. So, by being disingenuous that you are going to stop illegal immigration or you are going to do something about illegal immigration and then you don't, makes the voters even more cynical and more frustrated.

>> Mike Sauceda:
In 2006, illegal immigration is expected to be one of the big issues in campaigns, especially in statewide races, such as the race for Governor.

>> Wes Gullet:
I don't know if it will be the issue. It's one of the top five issues. It really depends on whether or not congress acts, because then people will think, well, let's wait and see what happens. But there definitely is a concern. Everybody has an experience with -- a negative experience with illegal immigration. Practically everybody in the State has a positive engagement with illegal immigration, they just don't know it or don't realize it or don't want to talk about it.

>> Mike Sauceda:
Barnes thinks the Governor is vulnerable because of her vetoes of bills related to proposition 200.

>> Ray Barnes:
Absolutely. They have the history of proposition 200, and here's another thing also: I think with the amount of people that are voting for proposition 200, that they also think, well, if we can get the Governor to make a stand against these things, it makes her more vulnerable to get defeated in 2006.

>> Michael Grant:
Congress is trying to solve the problem through guest worker programs. Three Arizona lawmakers among those sponsoring one of those bills. Senator John McCain, congressman Jim Kolbe and Jeff Flake sponsoring the secure America and orderly immigration act. The bill would create a work visa to allow foreign workers to come into the country if they have a job waiting for them. They would have to pay a $500 fee. The H5A visa would be limited to 400,000 people annually. The bill would create another visa, the H5B visa. That would allow people here illegally to work for six years. To apply, a worker has to pay back taxes, a thousand dollar fine, submit to fingerprinting and background check. The worker could apply for permanent legal status but would have to pay another $1,000 fine, undergo more background checks and become proficient in English. The bill sets up biometric identification cards and fines for employers who violate it. Meanwhile Arizona Senator Jon Kyl joined a Texas senator in sponsoring the Kyl bill. It would not have a path to permanent residency. It would beef up border security with 10,000 more border patrol agents over the next five years, and $2 billion for high-tech surveillance.

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