'More meaningless and costly political theatre,' Arizona Senate Democrats said of the governor's actions.
Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who has been highly critical of the Biden administration's immigration policies, said Tuesday that he was taking U.S.-Mexico border-related matters into his own hands and declaring a state of emergency over a largely GOP-manufactured crisis.
In addition to that declaration, Ducey said he would be deploying 250 Arizona National Guard members to the border to assist law enforcement with a rise in apprehensions and unaccompanied immigrant children in U.S. custody.
"It's become evidently clear that Arizona needs the National Guard, and the White House is aware of that,'' said the GOP governor in a Tuesday press release. "Yet, to this day, there has been no action from this administration, and it doesn't look like they are going to act any time soon.''
He added, "If this administration isn't going to do anything, then we will."
Ducey is directing up to $25 million in state funding for the effort, which echoes Donald Trump's decision to declare a fake emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2019 to obtain funds for his border wall, and has already drawn swift rebuke from state Democratic officials.
"More meaningless and costly political theatre from Governor @dougducey. The #Biden Administration has been deeply engaged in monitoring the border and marshaling all resources of the government to find compassionate and fair solutions," the Arizona Senate Democrats tweeted on Tuesday.
They pointed out Ducey's lack of outrage during the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy, when thousands of children were separated from their families, with no plan to reunite them. Many of those same children were kept in facilities with histories of alleged abuse or mismanagement. Scores of parents were also deported during that time.
"Gov @dougducey didn't think National Guard was needed when Trump Admin was throwing children and babies into cages and failing to reunite them w/ family," the caucus wrote in a separate tweet.
Arizona Democratic state Sen. Victoria Steele tweeted on Tuesday that the Biden administration had taken steps to address an increase in unaccompanied minors at the southern border. "Through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, we have secured $110 million in emergency funding to economically support localities and NGOs currently providing humanitarian care to migrants at the U.S. border. [Ducey's announcement] sounds like political grandstanding," she wrote.
Ducey has been heavily critical of President Joe Biden's immigration decisions, which include halting border wall construction.
"It’s clear that this administration is anti-wall and AWOL, absent without leave," said Ducey during a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in March. "They have been absent from the field."
But experts have said border walls are ineffective in curbing unlawful immigration — seeking asylum is considered legal immigration — as many undocumented immigrants are people who have simply overstayed their visas. Videos also show immigrants are often able to scale the barriers.
Drug smugglers and traffickers, meanwhile, have other complex methods of transporting goods into the country through sophisticated tunnel systems and through legal ports of entry.
Moreover, experts have said there is no crisis at the southern border as Republicans like Ducey have claimed. Seasonal shifts in immigration have resulted in a routine spike in border apprehensions and the continuation of the Title 42 expulsion order — a policy allowing officials to halt immigration on the ground of public health due to the pandemic, first implemented under Trump and kept in place by the Biden administration — has meant many asylum seekers and other immigrants have approached border authorities multiple times, even after being turned away.
Other experts have attributed any additional spike in border crossings to Biden's decision to reverse some of Trump's most draconian and harmful immigration policies.
"Migration goes up and down, that’s the reality of the border," Ramona Casas, director of the migrant advocacy group Arise, told the Guardian in March. "Biden has different values and has given people hope, but there's no border crisis, to say so is political manipulation. We need to address the root causes and transform the broken immigration system, not more militarization."
Former officials like Jenn Budd, who previously served as a Border Patrol agent before leaving in 2001, say the only real issue at the southern border is determining how to handle the rise in unaccompanied minors, many of whom are making the long journey to the United States on their own or with assistance from others who've been paid by their parents to help them.
Most are fleeing violence or poverty in their home countries, their parents knowing they stand a better chance at reaching safety in the United States if they arrive at the border by themselves.
"The only crisis at the border is the children, which the administration is trying to deal with, anything else is simply not true and an attempt to play politics, make Biden look bad and ensure the money keeps flowing to the border security industry," Budd told the Guardian.
Additional reporting by Melanie Schmitz.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.