Christine Jones said she’ll deploy 1,200 Arizona National Guard troops to the Mexican border and build fencing along key smuggling routes if elected governor.
The former GoDaddy executive, who has made illegal immigration and border security major planks of her campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, unveiled a border security plan on Monday. She announced the plan during a joint press conference with Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who threw his support behind her proposals.
Babeu also endorsed Jones’ candidacy for governor. Jones is in a six-way primary for the GOP nomination.
Jones said the plan has three key components – using troops and technology to deter and stop illegal immigrants and drug smugglers from crossing the border; building fencing, especially anti-vehicle barriers; and billing the federal government for the cost.
Jones said she will deploy 1,200 National Guard troops to the border for one year, at which point she would reevaluate how much longer, if at all, they need to be there. She said she believes the deployment would show substantial results within a year.
She said she would also use monitoring technology to track comings and goings in smuggling and trafficking routes.
“We will have an immigration task force that is so imposing that would-be illegal immigrants and drug traffickers will think twice about where they attempt to cross. Arizona must be so formidable that we are no longer a viable option,” Jones said.
Babeu said such deployments have been extremely effective in the past. He commanded National Guard troops during former Gov. Janet Napolitano’s 2006-2007 deployment of National Guard troops to the Yuma sector of the border.
“Where we’ve done that, as we did in Yuma, it immediately shut down the border,” Babeu said.
Jones said she isn’t looking to build fencing along the entire border with Mexico. But she said fencing should focus on known heavily trafficked routes used by illegal immigrants and drug smugglers, with an emphasis on anti-vehicle barriers that would prevent trucks and jeeps from crossing the border.
“We don’t need the Great Wall of Mexico. What we do need is fencing along highly trafficked, known smuggling routes. Law enforcement can then respond in real time,” Jones said.
Finally, Jones said she would bill the federal government for the cost of the plan, which she said would cost about $270 million, with about $50 million going to fencing and another $40 million to other one-time costs.
But Jones would not be the first governor to seek financial redress from the federal government on illegal immigration-related issues. Numerous Arizona governors going back at least to former Gov. Fife Symington, and including Gov. Jan Brewer and Napolitano, her immediate predecessor, have billed the federal government under the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. It was created to reimburse state and local governments for the costs of incarcerating criminals who are in the country illegally.
The federal government did not provide the reimbursement that Brewer and her predecessors sought. Jones did not provide an explanation for why she believes the federal government would treat her requests any differently, outside of a vague comment about how she has a “different way of approaching things.” She recalled how she stood up to the federal government before, when GoDaddy stood alone among big Internet companies in refusing to provide data to the National Security Agency.
“I just approach things a little differently. I don’t do politics as usual,” Jones said.