Pubdate: Tue, 23 Aug 2005
Source: Arizona Republic (AZ)
Copyright: 2005 The Arizona Republic
Author: Chip Scutari


Homeland Security Heeds Governor's Plea To Help Combat Smuggling

Just days after being criticized by Gov. Janet Napolitano for their 
resistance, federal authorities on Monday promised to help Arizona's fight 
against human trafficking and other problems caused by the influx of 
undocumented immigrants.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Monday sent Napolitano a letter 
outlining a multipronged plan to crack down on human smuggling, ease 
overcrowding in Arizona prisons and beef up immigration training given to 
Highway Patrol officers.

"We are moving forward quickly and aggressively to fashion a comprehensive 
plan with real solutions," Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff 
wrote. "We . . . intend to build a partnership with Arizona."

After years of mistrust and miscommunication, the letter could mark a new 
era of cooperation between Arizona and federal authorities.

Last week, Napolitano sent a scathing letter to Chertoff complaining 
aggressively about a lack of government cooperation on crucial border 
issues. On Monday night, she praised their efforts.

"I think this is very promising," Napolitano said from Washington, D.C. 
"We're finally seeing some movement. I look forward to speaking with 
Secretary Chertoff. It's finally nice to get something in writing."

In his two-page letter, Chertoff reminded Napolitano that Arizona was the 
first state he visited when he took his job earlier this year. He also said 
that federal authorities intend to enhance coordination with the state and 
have an increased presence in Arizona. He pledged to target the violent 
human smuggling trade, "especially within the area of Phoenix." Although 
the federal plans still have to be fleshed out, some of the details include:

* Arizona-based officials of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or 
ICE, would team four Arizona Department of Public Safety officers with 
federal agents to crack down on human trafficking and smuggling of drugs in 
the Phoenix area.

* Homeland Security officials said they will start periodic patrols of the 
Phoenix bus station.

* The letter says that the Border Patrol wants to work with the DPS on a 
variety of immigration efforts in the Casa Grande and Gila Bend areas.

* The federal government also offered to help deport foreign nationals that 
are currently housed in Arizona prisons. Those details will have to be 
ironed out.

* The Border Patrol would like the DPS to have a full-time person in ICE's 
Phoenix office and the Border Patrol office in Tucson.

Napolitano never heard back from Justice Department officials after telling 
them in February that they owe Arizona $217 million for incarcerating 
undocumented immigrants who commit crimes. The latest move could signal 
that border security is becoming such a massive problem in Arizona that 
it's pushing beyond partisan politics.

Once considered the bailiwick of the federal government, the letters 
between Napolitano and Chertoff are the latest reminder of how illegal 
immigration is a critical concern of frustrated taxpayers. There is no 
question that illegal immigration has emerged as the dominant issue in 
Arizona politics and will probably help frame Napolitano's re-election bid 
in 2006.

Chertoff invited all 50 state Homeland Security directors back to 
Washington to talk about a reorganization plan for department. Napolitano 
is in the nation's capital today, but she doesn't have any plans to meet 
with Chertoff.

Originally, Napolitano had hoped to assign 12 Highway Patrol officers to 
team up with federal agents to crack down on the smuggling of drugs and 
undocumented workers in the Phoenix area. But ICE declined the offer. She 
is now changing her strategy to attack state crimes involving drugs and 
stolen cars that fuel illegal immigration. She will shift the 12 officers 
to an auto-theft task force.

Napolitano also has started a campaign to curb the widespread use of fake 
identification. Since her election in 2003, the rift between the Democrat 
governor and the federal government has continued to widen as both sides 
struggle to stem the growing tide of illegal immigration. The majority of 
the 1.1 million arrests of undocumented immigrant along the Southwestern 
border last year were reported in Arizona, which shares 389 miles of border 
with Mexico.

""I have to say this (help) is encouraging," Napolitano said.
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