President Barack Obama announced last week that he was sending 1,200 National Guard troops to the border to help an overwhelmed U.S. Border Patrol.
But Obama said in a press conference that the guardsmen won't be patrolling the border. Instead, they'll be doing the same types of duties that the National Guard performed when the Bush administration sent them to the border: administrative and analysis work that allows more Border Patrol agents to hit the field.
"What we find is that (the National Guard) can help on intelligence, dealing with both drug and human trafficking along the borders," Obama said in a news conference. "They can relieve border guards so that the border guards then can be in charge of law enforcement in those areas. So there are a lot of functions that they can carry out that help leverage and increase the resources available in this area."
There's a reason that Obama and Bush didn't put the Guard to work apprehending drug-smugglers, coyotes and the migrants who are crossing the border in search of work: Under the Posse Comitatus Act, which dates all the way back to 1878, the National Guard is prohibited from engaging in law-enforcement activities. And no matter what the moronic commenters at StarNet want you to believe, the ongoing border problems are a law-enforcement issue. It's not an invasion of the country by foreign forces bent on overthrowing our nation; it's mostly poor people looking for work, although there are definitely bad apples in the bunch.
It's true that Congress could give the National Guard an exemption to engage in efforts to maintain order, as they did in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And it's also true that there are exemptions to the Posse Comitatus Act.
But the fundamental issue remains: Law-enforcement agents, whether they are Border Patrol officers or sheriff's deputies or cops on the street, have very different training and very different responsibilities than military soldiers. And in the United States, there's a long tradition of keeping the two separate.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada, who has been on the front lines of the border for decades, told us last week that he believes the National Guard can do a lot of good in a support role.
"My concern would be if they are armed and they have confrontations with people spilling across the border," Estrada said. "I think that could be very dangerous. ... I would much rather have the Border Patrol. They're trained and have a history of taking care of illegal immigration. They do a good job. Instead of the military, I would like to see more Border Patrol agents."
In the short term, the National Guard can do some good, but in the long term, Congress is going to have to come up with a better solution than more walls and more enforcement. A reasonable guest-worker program would be a start, but the real sticking point is dealing with the people who are now in the country illegally.
But don't expect to see any movement on that front until next year. With an election on the horizon, comprehensive reform remains on the backburner in Washington, D.C.
More fallout from SB 1070: A coalition of more than 20 musical acts has formed a group called Sound Strike and declared that they are not going to play in Arizona.
Among the bands we won't see perform: Cypress Hill (which already cancelled a gig at the Rialto Theatre), Rage Against the Machine, Kanye West, Sonic Youth, Joe Satriani and Conor Oberst.
The group's statement expresses frustration with Arizona's new immigration law: "Fans of our music, our stories, our films and our words can be pulled over and harassed every day because they are brown or black, or for the way they speak, or for the music they listen to. People who are poor like some of us used to be could be forced to live in a constant state of fear while just doing what they can to find work and survive. This law opens the door for them to be shaked down, or even worse, detained and deported while just trying to travel home from school, from home to work, or when they just roll out with their friends."
While we appreciate the musicians' concern for their fans, we have to point out that those same fans are the ones who are going to suffer from the boycott. It's not as if state Sen. Al Melvin is going to be upset that Kanye West won't be playing the SaddleBrooke clubhouse.
The musicians would have a much bigger impact if they'd actually played in Arizona to raise money and awareness for efforts to block SB 1070, to defeat the Republicans who supported it and to fight for real solutions to our ongoing border crisis.
A bit of good news on the state budget front: It appears as if we've finally hit bottom on our economic freefall.
In April, Arizona's tax revenues showed their first positive gain on a year-to-year basis since September 2007. And for the first time in 26 months, sales-tax collections were higher than the same month one year earlier.
However, we're far from being out of the woods. Through the first 10 months of the fiscal year, we've brought in $6.12 billion in taxes and spent $7.42 billion in the general fund, which means we've got a shortfall of $1.3 billion, which has been papered over by selling assets like state buildings and borrowing against future lottery proceeds.
But it's a good sign that sales taxes and income taxes are coming in above the forecast. Combined with the sales-tax hike approved by voters, we may have a recovery under way in Arizona.
Investigative reporter John Dougherty, who spent more than a decade muckraking up at the Phoenix New Times, has embarked on an endeavor even more lowly than that of reporter: He wants a shot at the U.S. Senate seat now held by John McCain.
"My history of holding Arizona's most powerful political figures accountable as an investigative journalist is a skill none of the other candidates for the Democratic nomination for Senate can match," Dougherty tells The Skinny via e-mail. "In these times of huge anger and distrust of government, I'm the right candidate at the right time."
Dougherty will launch his Southern Arizona campaign effort this Thursday, June 3, with a party from 7 to 9 p.m. at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St.
Dougherty faces former Tucson City Council member Rodney Glassman, labor organizer Randy Parraz and former state lawmaker Cathy Eden in the Democratic primary.
The three Democrats running for two seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission—state lawmakers Dave Bradley and Jorge Luis Garcia, and former ACC member Renz Jennings—will appear in front of the Pima County Nucleus Club on Thursday, June 10. The meeting is at 5:30 p.m. at the Viscount Suite Hotel, 4855 E. Broadway Blvd.
Find early and late-breaking Skinny at The Range, our daily dispatch, at blog.tucsonweekly.com.
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