PHOENIX — The crush of border-crossing children being dropped off by the Obama administration in Arizona has erupted as a campaign issue in the race to succeed outgoing Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican.
The top candidates for the Republican nomination have expressed outrage over the Homeland Security Department’s decision to route thousands of the unaccompanied minors from Texas to Arizona, often with little or no notice.
“Is this legal?” said state Treasurer Doug Ducey. “I’ve got a 10-year-old son, and if I took him to Tucson and dropped him off at a bus stop, they would lock me up.”
At a candidates forum last week, Republicans called on the Obama administration to tighten border enforcement and return the children to their countries of origin, mostly in Central America.
Secretary of State Ken Bennett challenged state officials to get tough with the Homeland Security Department.
“If I was governor, the first time a bus showed up at one of our bus depots would have been the only time that would have happened,” Mr. Bennett said in SanTanValley.com. “I would have ordered the arrest of anyone involved in bringing the second bus in, whether they were federal officials or not.”
The number of children crossing the border illegally has surged in the past six months, apparently in response to President Obama’s executive order allowing minors who enter the country illegally to delay deportation.
“The message from Washington and the federal government has been, ‘Get across the border and you’re in,’” said Mr. Ducey. “That’s not how you handle a legal immigration system.”
About 47,000 children have entered the country, mainly through the Texas border, in this budget year. Many of those have been transported to the Border Patrol processing facility in Nogales, Arizona, where the agency has converted a warehouse into a makeshift day care center for nearly 1,000 children.
Ms. Brewer, who has feuded with Mr. Obama for years over immigration issues, was outraged. She said she was never consulted or informed before the unaccompanied minors were released at bus stations in Phoenix and Tucson.
Homeland Security canceled plans to house children in Maryland and Virginia after meeting with resistance from state and local officials.
“I am disturbed and outraged that President Obama’s administration continues to implement this dangerous and inhumane policy, meanwhile neglecting to answer crucial questions our citizens demand and deserve,” Ms. Brewer said in a June 6 statement.
She described the situation as a “crisis of the federal government’s creation” and called on the president to “terminate this operation immediately.”
A half-dozen Republicans are competing for the gubernatorial nomination in the Aug. 26 primary election. The only Democrat seeking his party’s nomination is Fred DuVal, a former chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents.
At last week’s forum, Republican Christine Jones, former general counsel of GoDaddy, said returning the children to their families in Central America is “the single most humanitarian solution” and reiterated her call for tougher border security.