The Arizona Militia

By: Daniel Nardini

Yet another piece of controversial legislation is going through the Arizona state legislature. Arizona State Senate Bill 1083 would create and fund a militia whose sole purpose is to patrol and defend the border between Arizona and Mexico. The militia will be made up of those who wish to volunteer to protect the border, and the militia would answer only to the state government. Although it is still in the initial stages of development, and has not been voted on, it is causing concern not only in Washington, D.C. but also among Arizona’s neighbors. If this legislation passes, and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signs it into law, it could invariably cause a serious national crisis. Such a creation of a state militia would be the first by any state in this country, and that such a militia would be only answerable to the state government is a scary phenomenon.

What would it mean for the states of California and New Mexico? These states are Arizona’s neighbors, and Arizona having an armed force that is legally questionable will make them wonder if such a militia can be deployed along their borders? Arizona might consider using this militia to also guard the borders of these two states if the Arizona state government believes that “illegals” might be getting through these states. If this militia can stand guard on tne Mexican border it can also stand guard on the California and New Mexico borders. Then there is the question of what this means for the federal government? This militia would be doing the work of the U.S. Border Patrol and also the U.S. armed forces stationed along the border. The Arizona state government would be impinging on the jurisdiction of the federal government.

The Arizona state government claims that a state militia is needed to stop the “illegals flooding into the state” and “committing serious crimes against Americans.” This claim is refuted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI has found that crime along the border has actually gone down even before Arizona enacted its state immigration law in 2010. So why would Arizona need to create a militia? More to the point, who can actually qualify for being in the militia? What will the criteria be? In the case of the U.S. Border Patrol, the U.S. Border Patrol tries to screen out right wing nut cases (not always successful), people with criminal records, drug addicts, and people who might work or collaborate for the Mexican cartels. The biggest fear of the militia in my mind is that it might just include too many extremist right wing, racist and white supremacist nuts that it could pose as great a danger for everyone involved—the U.S. Border Patrol, the undocumented, and Americans living along the border.

We can only hope that this idea of a state militia will never get off the ground. Of course, we all said the same thing about Arizona’s state immigration law and its ban on ethnic studies which really affects Latinos. The only thing the state did not do was make the children of the undocumented illegal as well, but that can still happen. Can we really discount the possibility that the Arizona state government might do something this crazy?

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