Terry Goddard Commends Steps to Beef Up Border Security, But Says Much Stronger Effort Needed to Dismantle Cartels

(Phoenix, Ariz. -- July 19, 2010) Attorney General Terry Goddard today called federal actions to strengthen security along the Mexican border a step in the right direction, but he said the Obama administration needs to place much greater emphasis on defeating the Mexico-based cartels that control drug-smuggling and human-trafficking into Arizona.

"The border enforcement actions announced today are overdue, but a welcome step forward," Goddard said. "They are not, however, going to stop the flow of drugs, guns and illegal immigrants across our border as long as the cartels continue to thrive. As I stated in a letter this month to President Obama, the growth in size, strength and sophistication of the Mexican cartels presents the most immediate threat to the security of Arizonans. We need a much stronger federal commitment to bring them down."  

The federal actions include the deployment of some 1,200 National Guard troops to the Southwest border, beginning Aug. 1; the assignment of more than 300 additional Border Patrol agents and customs officers to Arizona; the allocation of six additional aircraft and new mobile surveillance systems to the Tucson sector, and a new program to increase the prosecution of criminal aliens arrested for re-entering the U.S. after prior removal.

"Bolstering manpower and technology will help," Goddard said. "But our border will never be secure as long as the cartels are so deeply entrenched, so well-funded and operate so brazenly. The cartel leaders need to be identified and brought to justice by all means available." 

Goddard also commended a bill introduced today by U.S. Reps. Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.) and Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) to help law enforcement diminish the number of drop houses in metro Phoenix used by the cartels as way stations for human-smuggling. The Stop the Drop Houses Act would close a federal loophole and allow civil forfeiture to be used to seize homes being utilized as drop houses. Under current law, civil forfeiture can be used to seize other property used in smuggling crimes, but not houses. Estimates of the number of drop houses in the Phoenix area have ranged as high as 1,000. 

For more information, contact Press Secretary Molly Edwards at (602) 542-8019.