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A fence through the middle of Arizona: Thomas unveils ‘Patton Line’ border security plan

Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas introduces his "Patton Line" border security solution at a July 23 press conference. (Photo by Jeremy Duda/Arizona Capitol Times)

Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas introduces his “Patton Line” border security solution at a July 23 press conference. (Photo by Jeremy Duda/Arizona Capitol Times)

Andrew Thomas unveiled his border security plan, providing details of the “Patton Line” that he referenced in a recent television ad for his gubernatorial campaign.

The disbarred former Maricopa County attorney and Republican gubernatorial hopeful, who has made border security and illegal immigration the focal point of his political career, said the Patton Line would involve fencing and thousands of National Guard troops along the border.

“I stopped illegal immigration before. As governor I’ll do it again, this time for good. This needs to be done. We need somebody with a proven track record, and that’s what I offer,” Thomas said.

Thomas said he would deploy 3,000 National Guard troops to the border at a cost of $60 million a year. He would also build fencing along the entire length of the border, which Thomas said would cost $10 million a year for five years.

The majority of the land along Arizona’s 376-mile border with Mexico is controlled by the federal government and Native American reservations, primarily the Tohono O’odham Nation. Thomas said fencing along the border is the ideal scenario, but acknowledged that he may not be able to get federal and tribal permission to put fencing on the land they control.

If he can’t get permission, Thomas said he would use a “fallback line,” which would fence off areas further north, along the border with federal and tribal land.

“And we will build the fence as necessary here to funnel the drug and human trafficking network up into an area that is much easier to corral and to control. With a combination of troops and fencing, we can get that job done. This is what it’s going to take,” he said.

In some areas, the fence would actually be about 200 miles north of the Mexican border. Thomas said checkpoints would monitor road traffic through the fenced-off area.

Thomas denied that his fallback line would wall off a substantial chunk of southern Arizona.

“They’ll be able to get through, through roads,” he said. “If you’ve driven along the border, there already are checkpoints. So really what you’re doing is to the extent that we have to move farther north, that’s what we’d be doing.”

Thomas said he would pay for his plan primarily through welfare reform that he said would drastically cut down on the number or social service recipients. He unveiled his plan at Edison Park in Phoenix, across the street from a welfare office, to highlight the point.

He said he would impose community service requirements on recipients of food stamps, Medicaid and other social services. Recipients would be required to provide community service for one weekend a month and two weeks per year.

He said he would also ask the Legislature to pass legislation similar to HB2367, a 2014 bill that would have sought federal permission to impose a five-year cap on Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System benefits and require all able-bodied enrollees to have employment. Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill.

Thomas said such requirements would save the state $150 million a year and cut 141,000 people from the Medicaid rolls.

The problem with that plan is that HB2367 would not have actually imposed those requirements. It would have only required the AHCCCS director to seek federal approval for those limits. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have historically refused such requests from states.

However, Thomas had a backup plan for his funding source. If he couldn’t fund the Patton Line through welfare reform, he said he would ask the voters to approve funding, possibly by reallocating other voter-mandated funding from previous elections.

“If all else fails, I am prepared to go to the voters with a special election and ask them to approve the necessary funding,” he said.

Thomas is in a six-way primary for the GOP nomination for governor, along with Secretary of State Ken Bennett, state Treasurer Doug Ducey, former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones, former California Congressman Frank Riggs and former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. Thomas is widely viewed as a longshot candidate with little or no chance of winning the primary.

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