(Phoenix, Ariz -- April 28, 2010) Attorney General Terry Goddard has written a "My Turn" column regarding the current debate over Arizona's new immigration law.
As the misguided immigration bill signed by Gov. Brewer continues to generate controversy, a pair of much less publicized events in the past few days promise to have a far bigger impact on securing our border with Mexico.
The first was a press conference I joined with U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to announce a bill she is co-sponsoring that will impose long overdue regulations on stored value devices, which are commonly used by Mexican drug cartels to transfer money across the border.
Many of these devices look like credit cards with a money balance encoded on a magnetic strip. Cell phones that can be used to download prepaid amounts are also covered by the bill. Because they are not regulated by current U.S. law -- a loophole so big you can drive a cartel through it -- organized criminals have turned to them as a reliable way to move large sums and finance drug smuggling, human smuggling and arms trafficking.
I have been calling for a law to control these devices for three years in Congressional testimony as well as meetings with Treasury officials and members of Congress. My Office helped draft the bill for Rep. Giffords, and this week I called on Vice President Joe Biden, who is coming to Arizona this weekend, to help advance the measure.
As organized criminals switch from money wires to other ways of transmitting funds, our laws must keep pace. Once enacted, this measure will help us cut down the lucrative flow of illegal funds that fuels violent border crime.
Just two months ago, I reached an unprecedented, $94 million settlement with Western Union that resolved litigation over the cartels' use of wire transfers to finance their operations. The settlement includes access to data on future transactions that will allow law enforcement to spot and intercept cartel wire transfers as they occur. With the addition of the tough regulations on stored value devices in Rep. Giffords' bill, the cartels will find it much harder to obtain the money they need.
The second event was the takedown of a Mexican drug trafficking organization that has moved at least 40,000 pounds of marijuana through southern Arizona, mainly in Cochise County.
I joined federal, state and local law enforcement officials in a 36-month investigation which has produced 39 indictments and 34 arrests, including an employee of the Cochise County Attorney's Office, who was charged with providing confidential information to the drug traffickers for money. This case shows the cartels' efforts to infiltrate law enforcement agencies are not limited to Mexico. We must remain vigilant and prosecute anyone who aids the cartels in any way.
This case demonstrates outstanding teamwork among law enforcement officials at all levels in Arizona; it is one of several investigations that have broken up major drug and human smuggling operations in the past 16 months. I'm proud to have helped build the current high level of cooperation that enables us to maximize resources and more effectively fight organized crime.
Arizona's new immigration law will do nothing to secure our border or combat the violent criminals who cross into Arizona. Instead, it will impose unfunded mandates on law enforcement agencies, take away resources from stopping more serious crimes and lead to costly lawsuits.
What will make a difference are actions like knocking out large drug trafficking organizations and putting a new law on the books to make it much harder for the cartels to get the money they need.
More action is urgently needed. In a recent letter to President Obama, I outlined a series of steps that would reshape federal immigration rules and strengthen our fight against border crime. I will keep pushing for these changes and will keep working with our law enforcement partners to do everything we can to protect Arizona.