Arizona’s Democratic governor Katie Hobbs (D.) plans to defund a border enforcement team that specializes in countering international crime organizations, earning condemnation from critics who point to record numbers of illegal migrants and drugs crossing the border.
The Border Strike Force, established in 2015 by then-governor Doug Ducey (R.) to “help secure Arizona’s border and thwart transnational criminal organizations,” will be dismantled under Hobbs’s proposed budget. The governor, who took office earlier this year, said the funds should be redirected to be “more beneficial” in coordinating law enforcement at the border.
Hobbs’s decision to gut the force, which focuses on countering global drug smugglers, comes as the United States faces record amounts of drugs coming over the border, with reported fentanyl seizures at U.S. ports of entries quadrupling from 2019 to 2021. The decision could prove to be a political gift to Republicans, who will likely need to win Arizona to have any chance of winning back the White House in 2024. Nearly four in five voters in the state say illegal immigration is a bad thing, and a wide majority support building a wall, according to recent polls.
Hobbs has argued, based on reporting in the Arizona Republic, that the force had not lived up to its purpose. Among the criticisms is that more than 60 percent of drug seizures were conducted by officers outside the force. While Democrats are saying the force is for show, it has scored major drug busts, according to Fox News.
Republicans blasted Hobbs’s decision. Rep. Paul Gosar (R., Ariz.) said “countless more people” would die from Hobbs’s “open border policies.”
“In the same manner that Joe Biden has destroyed our country with his welcomed support for the prolonged lawlessness and drug crisis along our southern border, Katie Hobbs is destroying Arizona in three short months since taking office by her reckless dismantling of the Border Strike Task Force,” Gosar said.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R., Ariz.) said that “there is no rational reason to undermine border and national security efforts amid a historic border crisis.”
“It is unacceptable that Governor Hobbs would take away this important resource meant to restore Arizona’s border security and stop the criminal cartels,” Rep. Debbie Lesko (R., Ariz.) said.
The move comes as the United States faces a migrant crisis on the southern border. Sixteen individuals on the terror watch list were apprehended on the border in February. At least 5.5 million illegal migrants have crossed the border since President Joe Biden took office. Between Oct. 1, 2022, and Jan. 31, 2023, border agents seized 12,500 pounds of fentanyl along the southern border.
Despite the crisis, House Democrats this month boycotted a congressional hearing in South Texas to address border challenges.
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