Citing the importance of growing Arizona’s international presence, House Speaker Rusty Bowers hopes a new Ad Hoc Committee on International Affairs will enhance trade opportunities while also strengthening border security.
“The world is an ever-changing place, and it’s important that the State of Arizona be proactive to attract more commerce, education and culture to this beautiful state,” Bowers said this week in announcing formation of the ad hoc committee.
The committee co-chaired by Tim Dunn (R-LD13) and Rep. Cesar Chavez (D-LD15) will organize visits and joint events in Arizona with international dignitaries, while identifying and working with outside organizations to strengthen Arizona’s international relationships. Committee members will also conduct hearings related to foreign trade, international affairs, and border security.
“Whether it be trade, border security or tourism, this committee will be a key force in making Arizona safer and more prosperous,” said Dunn, an agri-businessman who chairs the House Committee on Land, Agriculture & Rural Affairs.
According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, Arizona had $1.9 billion in trade exports and $2.38 billion in trade imports in September 2021. Between September 2020 and September 2021, exports increased by $327 million (20.7 percent) while imports increased by $221 million (10.2 percent).
For Chavez, international relationships are critical for growing the state’s business, trade, and education sectors.
“I’ve always believed that Arizona is the State of Opportunity because of what can be accomplished in a bipartisan manner,” Chavez said. “Through the work of this ad-hoc committee, I’m certain that we’ll give Arizona its well-deserved global presence.”
Dunn and Chavez will be joined on the committee by Reps. Regina Cobb (R-LD5), Diego Espinoza (D-LD19), Alma Hernandez (D-LD3), Steve Kaiser (R-LD15), Lorenzo Sierra (D-LD19), and Justin Wilmeth (R-LD15).
Our Country is based on the rule of law. From the rights and liberties protected by our Constitution to the statutes enacted by federal and state governments, we are a nation of laws. Unfortunately, the Biden administration has abandoned this principle. The most shocking example is the administration’s refusal to enforce federal immigration laws on our southern border. This dangerous “Open Border Policy” has placed the health and safety of Arizonans in grave danger. The Biden administration has reduced our southern border to a zone of lawlessness run by criminals making billions of dollars from illegal immigration — $7,000 to $8,000 per illegal immigrant. Further, these lawless crooks profit off the sale of lethal drugs such as fentanyl and methamphetamine, all the while raping women, molesting children, and assaulting and murdering thousands of victims.
We have petitioned, complained — and, at times, begged — for the federal government to help, but to no avail. The sad reality is that there is no help on the way. We are on our own.
But all is not lost. Embedded in our Constitution is the principle of federalism. Specifically, under the Tenth Amendment, powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the States (and the People). Federalism provides states with the power and authority to protect the safety and welfare of their citizens through new and innovative solutions without relying on the federal government.
Thus, we do not have to rely on the federal government to secure our border with Mexico. Rather, we can use state law and resources to address it on our own. We can begin securing our border by enforcing state laws that protect our citizens and their property. This can be accomplished by creating a state enforced No Trespassing Zone along the border.
The No Trespassing Zone is a simple concept. First, persons entering the country illegally must, at some point, enter private or state land. If given reasonable notice that such entry constitutes trespassing (through the posting of “No Trespassing” signs), they can, and will, be arrested for trespassing. In addition to trespass, those entering the No Trespassing Zone may be arrested and prosecuted for the criminal damage they cause to state and private property. Additionally, the trespassers and the cartels will be prosecuted for any illegal drugs and weapons they carry into the Zone.
Second, entry into the No Trespassing Zone is detected by placing a “virtual wall” along the Zone. This technology, which employs hidden cameras placed in strategic locations, provides crystal-clear, real-time images of persons entering a surveilled area. This “virtual wall” technology is already in place on the border in Cochise County and has been funded by the Arizona legislature to extend to Yuma County.
Third, the policy requires the local county attorney’s offices and the Attorney General’s office to commit to a “zero-tolerance policy” regarding violations occurring in the No Trespassing Zone. Simply put, a “zero-tolerance policy” means that these agencies will dedicate staff and resources to prosecuting crimes committed in the Zone when there is sufficient evidence to do so.
Posting no trespassing signs would, of course, require the consent of private landowners. Additionally, much of the border includes locations, such as federal and reservation land, where state law enforcement and prosecutors have no jurisdiction. Thus, in some areas, the No Trespassing Zone will have to extend inside the state to the nearest adjacent private or state property where entry is made.
It is time for Arizona to act. As Arizona’s Attorney General, I will aggressively use the power of the Office to develop creative legal strategies to solve the problems we face together. The “No Trespassing Zone” initiative will put the law on our side to ensure border security.
Andrew W. Gould was appointed as a Justice to the Arizona Supreme Court in 2017 after serving 5 years on Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals. He retired from the Supreme Court in March 2021. Prior to his appointment to the Court of Appeals, Justice Gould spent 11 years as a Judge of the Superior Court in Yuma County, where he served as both Associate Presiding Judge and Presiding Judge.
Andrew received his J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law in 1990. He began his legal career in Phoenix, Arizona, practicing in the field of civil litigation. In 1994, he became a Deputy County Attorney, prosecuting major criminal cases for Yuma and Maricopa Counties. He served as Chief Civil Deputy for the Yuma County Attorney’s Office from 1999-2001. Justice Gould has previously served on the Arizona Supreme Court Commission on Technology, as the President of the Arizona Judges’ Association, and has taught at the Judicial Conference and New Judge Orientations.
For the last 15 years I’ve protected Arizonans and Americans from dangerous criminals – the past eight working for the United States Attorney’s Office securing the southwest border. I’ve seen how decisions made in the halls of power – whether it be Washington, D.C., or Phoenix – play out on the ground. When our leaders put politics and political correctness before safety and security, there are real life consequences.
I know this because I’ve had face-to-face conversations with cartel members and listened to wiretaps on their phones. I’ve investigated them for drug trafficking, human smuggling, murders and mutilations. That was my job. I was a border security section chief for the District of Arizona.
In March, the flood of immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally was 67% higher than at the same time in 2019, when the United States last experienced a surge of immigrants at the border. According to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, “We are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.” Our southern border is not secure.
This is a crisis. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has declared a state of emergency in several counties and deployed the National Guard. And it is a crisis that is entirely President Joe Biden’s making. Every action by this administration sends a direct signal to bad actors who control the flow of immigrants and drugs across the border.
Biden’s public safety failure
The media frenzy surrounding Biden’s border crisis has served to cover up another truly frightening aspect of this administration’s immigration policy: the release of criminals from jails and prisons. On Inauguration Day, the Department of Homeland Security issued an immediate 100-day pause on certain deportations.
With few exceptions, individuals who were going to be deported and were just awaiting their complimentary flight (or walk) back to their home countries would no longer be removed. The immediate consequence was that convicted felons who did not have permission to be in the United States were released from prisons after their sentences and let onto the streets.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton successfully sued Washington and obtained a nationwide temporary restraining order preventing DHS from enforcing the 100-day moratorium. But the Biden administration simply issued replacement guidance, which had the same effect. Immigration and Customs Enforcement got the message – individuals who do not meet certain enforcement priorities should not be removed from the country. And unlike the 100-day pause, this new guidance has no expiration date.
The Biden administration’s enforcement priorities are so narrow that they exclude many violent offenders. Take, for example, the “public safety” priority. It allows ICE to remove individuals who have been convicted of an “aggravated felony.” Sounds serious, right? But what if I told you that some murder convictions do not qualify as aggravated felonies. To put it in perspective, at least one of the killing offenses for which former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was convicted would not qualify.
Violent offenders on the street
I prosecuted a Honduran in 2014 who had been denied asylum but returned to the United States and got into an altercation during which he hit his victim in the head with a metal bar, fracturing his skull. The resulting aggravated assault conviction was not an aggravated felony.
And yet, this is the porous metric DHS has decided to use when determining whether our community’s public safety is a priority. Tragedy will undoubtedly flow from this awful choice, and it is not just those who reside in close proximity to the border who will be affected. President Biden, it’s time to make public safety a real priority.
Lacy Cooper was the border security section chief for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona. She served 15 years as both a county and federal prosecutor targeting violent offenders, gang members, cartels and terrorists. She is now Of Counsel with the law firm of Schmitt Schneck Even & Williams. The views expressed in this commentary are her own.