Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Partisan battle heats up as governor orders troops to Mexican border

Napolitano is trying to play a shell game

The Business Journal of Phoenix - 2:48 PM MST Wednesday
by Mike Sunnucks
The Business Journal

Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano and her Republican rivals -- including Congressman J.D. Hayworth and gubernatorial challenger Len Munsil -- battled Wednesday over plans to dispatch state National Guard troops to help secure the Mexican border and curtail illegal immigration and drug cartel activity.
Napolitano issued an executive order Wednesday calling for more National Guard troops to be sent to the border as soon as funding is approved by the federal government or state Legislature.
State guard troops have been at the border for a number of years performing auxiliary functions to assist federal security and customs personnel.
The Napolitano order calls for more state troops to assist with border security, including staffing crossing points and helping out with inspections of cargo and border crossers. The governor said one focus of the state troops is to help reduce the amount of Mexican-produced crystal meth imported into the U.S. via Arizona.
The move by the governor comes just as the Republican-majority Arizona Legislature is poised to approve a $10 million funding bill instructing the governor to send more Guardsmen to the border.
Napolitano said Wednesday that legislative mandate is unconstitutional because it infringes on her executive powers and those of future governors.
She argues Republicans are trying to score political points on the border issue. The governor wants the federal government to cover the state costs of helping with border security but said she would approve a state bill if it did not mandate executive action. Napolitano has asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to cover the costs of state troops at the border but has not gotten any money from the Bush administration.
Republicans fired back Wednesday at Napolitano.
Hayworth and Munsil faulted the governor for using the state guard in auxiliary and support roles and for not taking action earlier on border security.
"Her executive order uses the National Guard as window dressing," said Munsil, the leading Republican candidate for governor. "She wants the National Guard to be solely in a support role. The National Guard should not be used to change the oil for border patrol vehicles, nor should it be used as a political prop for her re-election."
Napolitano and Democrats have been critical of the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress for not allocating enough resources and personnel towards border security and not helping states with the costs of illegal immigration.
Napolitano also defended her actions on immigration and the border Wednesday pointing to a $100 million budget plan aimed at boosting border security and assisting law enforcement and her issuance of a state of emergency last summer to help border counties deal with illegal crossings and drug trafficking from Mexico.
The Democratic governor also supports fines and other sanctions against employers who unlawfully hire illegal immigrants.
Some Republicans say the governor's border funding does not include enough specific money for security. Both sides of the aisle are also accusing the other of maneuvering on immigration because it is an election year, and voters are frustrated with the porous nature of the Mexican border.
A new study released Tuesday by the Pew Hispanic Center estimates there are 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., mostly from Mexico.

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