FRUSTRATED WITH THE INABILITY of the federal government to deal with the growing lawlessness at the border, the governors of New Mexico and Arizona have declared states of emergency. Although both governors face border problems particular to their states -- as do the governors of Texas and California -- the common theme to their complaints is the negligence and inattention of the federal government.
The root of the problem in Arizona is uneven enforcement at the border, which has turned the state into the main gateway for illegal immigration into the country. Since Oct. 1, 2004, 510,000 people trying to cross the border between Yuma and Tucson have been arrested -- about 1,600 a day. By declaring an emergency, Gov. Janet Napolitano freed $1.5 million in state funds to assist the four counties most affected by illegal immigration. Given the magnitude of the problem, that amount is a pittance. Yet it should help mend a few fences and pay for overtime for local law enforcement agencies.
On the New Mexico border, the main worry is that the illegal entry of would-be workers is contributing to an upsurge of violence. Ranchers say thieves are stealing their cattle and other property, and local authorities report being shot at by drug smugglers. Gov. Bill Richardson said the emergency declaration would make $1.75 million available for local law enforcement.