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AG Asserts Ducey Has Authority To Protect Arizona From Cartel Invasion

February 7, 2022

By Terri Jo Neff |

The State of Arizona is getting no support from the White House against an ongoing invasion by Mexican cartels, which gives Gov. Doug Ducey the authority to deploy the Arizona National Guard in self-defense, according to a legal opinion released by Arizona Attorney Mark Brnovich on Monday.

“The federal government’s failure to secure the border and protect Arizona from invasion is dangerous and unprecedented,” the 25-page opinion states.   “Thankfully, the Founders foresaw that States might need to protect themselves from invasion and made clear in the Constitution that States retain the sovereign power to defend themselves within their own territory.”

The attorney general’s opinion was prompted by an inquiry submitted in October by Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-LD12) about whether the Biden Administration “has failed –intentionally or unintentionally– to uphold its obligations” under Article IV of the U.S. Constitution to protect Arizona from invasion.

The opinion contends the federal government “has lost or severely degraded its operational control” of Arizona’s 372-mile border with Mexico, where cartels and gangs are openly trafficking in drugs, weapons, and human beings while engaging in attacks on Arizonans and acting “as if they are above the law.”

Among the issues the attorney general examined in response to Hoffman’s inquiry was the definitions of “actually invaded” and “invasion” as used in the State Self-Defense Clause and the Invasion Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

ARTICLE I, SECTION 10

“…No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.”

ARTICLE IV, SECTION 4

“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.”

The examination also included whether a state has constitutional power to defend itself from “hostile non-state actors” such as armed cartels or only an invasion by a foreign power. Finally, the attorney general had to determine whether the current crisis at the Arizona / Mexico border satisfies the definitions of “actually invaded” and “invasion.”

“The violence and lawlessness at the border caused by transnational cartels and gangs satisfies the definition of an ‘invasion’ under the U.S. Constitution, and Arizona therefore has the power to defend itself from this invasion under the Governor’s authority as Commander-in-Chief,” the opinion states, adding that an  invasion “permits the State to engage in defensive actions within its own territory.”

The legal questions addressed by the attorney general have not been adjudicated in court with factors similar to the situation in Arizona. However, the opinion was welcomed by Hoffman, who called on Ducey to utilize the powers afforded to him by the U.S. Constitution to immediately secure the border.

“I’m glad to see that Attorney General Brnovich today agreed with my assessment that the crisis occurring on our southern border constitutes an invasion and a total failure by the Biden administration to fulfill its constitutional obligation to protect the people of Arizona,” Hoffman said.“The human smuggling, cartel drugs and violence, sex trafficking, and other illicit activity must end.”

Ducey’s office did not issue a formal comment on whether the governor agrees with the opinion’s legal conclusions of his authority as commander-in-chief. Since April 2021, several dozen National Guard soldiers have been rotated in and out of border county sheriff’s offices to perform administrative, non-law enforcement functions.

This has been well-received by the sheriffs as it frees up deputies to respond to the increase in reported crimes along the border. 

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