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Politics

McCain, Arizona Republicans: First Border Security, Not Immigration Reform

DHS Criticism
DHS Criticism

Arizona Republicans met in Tucson Thursday to lambast the Homeland Security Department for pulling the National Guard troops from the Mexican border.

Senator John McCain and Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake were once key authors of a guestworker program for illegal immigrants. They say that's come to an end.

While Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was in El Paso touting the safety of the border, McCain, Flake and other Republicans met in Tucson to criticize her agency. The National Guard was scheduled to leave the border by July. But Homeland was supposed to hire 1,000 new agents. So far, only 250 were hired. McCain says the Guard is still needed.

"Every place we go, when we talked to the people on the border and hear that the work that the National Guard has been doing is vital, that it needs to be increased rather than decreased," McCain said.

McCain and Flake co-authored a guestworker program back in 2003. Some Republicans labelled it little more than an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Now both men say the border is much more dangerous than Napolitano says it is and they've put comprehensive immigration reform to one side.

"The situation has changed substantially since then. We've gotta have a secure border first," Flake said.

In Tucson, Democrat Raul Grijalva defended the plan for the Guard to leave the border.

"Most of these visits to the districts have been dog and pony shows. We have a press conference at the end. You rail against the fact there's no security and then you get a good media hit and you go home."

McCain has sought support for his ten-point plan for securing the border. The plan would deploy 3,000 National Guard troops to the Arizona-Sonora border, alone. The current deployment has about 540 guard troops on the Arizona border.

Meeting in El Paso, Sec. Napolitano said the border is safer than ever before.