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Harper proposes state-sanctioned militia to patrol border

Sen. Jack Harper has plans to deploy a state-sanctioned, civilian force to observe and report on illegal activity along the U.S./Mexico border, which would likely put Arizona at odds with the federal government.

Sen. Jack Harper has plans to deploy a state-sanctioned, civilian force to observe and report on illegal activity along the U.S./Mexico border, which would likely put Arizona at odds with the federal government.

An Arizona lawmaker’s idea to deploy a state-run civilian force on the U.S.-Mexico border could set the stage for a dramatic showdown with the federal government if the Legislature and the governor follow through on it.

Sen. Jack Harper, a Republican from Surprise, said he plans to introduce legislation next year that would create a government-sanctioned militia that would be allowed to patrol the border to observe illegal activity and report it to enforcement authorities.

Under Harper’s plan, the civilian force would be under the supervision of the Arizona National Guard. Its members would be allowed to carry weapons for self defense. Volunteers would need a fingerprint clearance card or undergo a background check to qualify.

“We can’t afford to have illegal aliens continue to sneak into our state and staying and bringing their children so we get stuck with their educational costs. We can’t afford to continue to provide for them in our hospitals and incarcerate them when they get caught,” Harper said. “We just need to stop them at the border.”

The proposal is yet another example of Arizona’s attempt to take matters into its own hands, which arose from a widely shared belief among the state’s residents and lawmakers that the federal government has failed in its job to secure the border. But the idea of deploying a state-sponsored militia on the U.S.-Mexico border raises red flags for some legal scholars.

Paul Bender, a professor of constitutional law at Arizona State University, said a civilian militia would not be allowed to stop illegal immigrants from crossing the border because that authority is reserved for the federal government. Any direct action by the state or a militia to stop illegal immigrants from crossing the border may violate the U.S. Constitution, he said.

“If Senator Harper really wants to do this, then he ought to propose asking the federal government for its cooperation and authorization in doing this and see what happens,” he said. “To just go off on your own and say we are going to guard the border — I don’t think states can do that.”

An armed civilian force opens Arizona to civil liability, said Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Phoenix.

“What happens if they apprehend individuals on the border, for which they have no federal authority to apprehend? Then is the state subject to civil lawsuits because of that? I don’t know, but my guess is probably yes,” she said.

Supporters of the idea argued that the federal government has abdicated its duties by failing to protect Arizona from “foreign invasion.”

“Arizona paid taxes to the federal government for them to provide this security, and yet they won’t secure our state. We are being invaded, and they won’t do anything about it,” said Sen. Ron Gould, a Lake Havasu City Republican.

But Doris Meissner, a former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and now a senior fellow with the Migration Policy Institute, said the federal government has been ramping up security along Arizona’s stretch of the border, which shows that the feds are indeed taking responsibility.

“The whole focus of the federal government’s effort on the Southwest border is in Arizona,” she said. “I think that there are more federal resources in Arizona at this point than at any other place along the Southwest border.”

Harper said he would leave it to the governor to decide under what conditions and where to deploy what he is calling a “homeland security force.” But he wants volunteers to begin training immediately, if and when the measure passes and becomes law.

Harper suggested that the deployment of the civilian security force should be triggered if the number of National Guard troops that the federal government has called up to work on the border begins to decrease. Right now there are more than 500 National Guard troops stationed along the Arizona border to assist federal agents.

The proposal to create a civilian security force is only one part of Harper’s border plan. He is also considering an expanded role for the Arizona National Guard along the border. Instead of providing support to U.S. Border Patrol agents, Harper wants the National Guard troops to enforce immigration law themselves by engaging potential violators.

In Harper’s grand plan, the National Guard would train the civilian militia, the Air National Guard would train the Civil Air Patrol, and the entire effort would be paid for by the state.

Harper said he would introduce those components if the federal government fails to meet its obligations along the border.

“If the National Guard did begin to draw down, then I would advocate state funding for the National Guard and Homeland Security Force to deploy to the border,” Harper said.

Erwin Chemerinsky, the founding dean of the University of California, Irvine, School of Law, said it would be risky for Arizona to take any enforcement action along the border that may be interpreted as an encroachment on federal territory.

“Such an attempt by Arizona to enforce the border would surely be deemed pre-empted by federal law,” Chemerinsky said. “That is, and always has been, the sole responsibility of the federal government. There would be significant foreign policy consequences, and states can’t make foreign policy.”

Harper’s proposal is not new. Three years ago, he authored a similar measure that was passed by the Legislature. But then-Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed SB1132, saying it was unnecessary because the governor already has authority to call on a volunteer militia to supplement the National Guard in times of emergency.

The political situation today is drastically different than when Napolitano was governor.

Next year, Republicans will have supermajority control of the Legislature, and many of them were elected partly because of their support for a strict enforcement approach to confronting illegal immigration. And Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, is now on the Ninth Floor.

It’s doesn’t help that the public’s opinion of the federal government is very low in Arizona, which has challenged the feds multiple times during the past year over states’ rights issues. Arizona is a party to a legal challenge to the federal health care law. The federal government, meanwhile, has gone to court to stop Arizona’s SB1070, which requires law enforcers to inquire of people’s immigration status if there were suspicions they are here illegally. Key provisions of that law are under an injunction.

The timing could be better for Harper’s proposal as he still faces many hurdles. The biggest challenge is coming up with the money to cover the costs of equipping and maintaining such a militia.

Earlier this year, legislative budget staff estimated it would cost $10 million to deploy 85 National Guard troops for one year. A deployment of 3,000 guardsmen to the border would likely cost Arizona more than $350 million if the state paid for it.

Although those estimates were for National Guard troops, they may also serve as an indication of what it would cost the state to pay for additional armed troops along the border.

And even if Harper’s colleagues are agreeable to sending a state-paid civilian force to the border, they might balk at any action that entails additional spending at a time when the state is facing billions of dollars in budget deficit and core services are being cut.

Without responding specifically to Harper’s idea, gubernatorial spokeswoman Kim Sabow said the governor is leery about committing Arizona to cover the costs of additional border security.

“The governor has previously stated very strongly that the expense of deploying the National Guard is a federal responsibility, and that we must continue our efforts to hold the federal government accountable for protecting our citizens from border violence,” Sabow said.

Arizona Border Patrol by the numbers

National Guard deployment along the U.S.-Mexico border: 559 in Arizona; 284 in Texas; 260 in California; 82 in New Mexico

Estimated cost of National Guard deployment for a year: $135 million, which will be shared by U.S.

Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Defense Border Patrol troops along the Southwest border: 17,500
— Source: National Guard Bureau


  1. illegal to protect our own State? Then maybe it is time to become an independent nation.Something is totally whacko to say we have to let them in unless a fed stops them.
    these washington punks are trying to cause us Arizona Citizens to “go off” and they may get their wish if things don’t get fixed.
    come on 2012, bye bye obammy and nappy

  2. This is a good idea, let him do it because no one else is protecting us. The almighty government isn’t doing it.

  3. Not to worry, everything is going to be ok. The federal government is “ramping up” security at the border.

  4. At this time an organization called the Arizona Guard is beign formed in Phoenix and through-ought the state. Our mission is to support Law Enforcement by going into dangerous and undermanned areas of the Desert and reporting on illegal activity. I have been to the I-8 area on several occasions for patrol and while I am no expert on the area, I can offer guidence and training that matches what will be needed. We are in need of Ammunition and fuel for training. Commo and sensory gear would be helpfull as well. If you are willing to stand up for our Nation, please contact me at 480-457-9225.

  5. I seem to remember the late President Reagan saying, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” Scary, huh?

  6. When the fed refuses to uphold laws then we become lawless. We should protect our state and ignore the federal gov. We should not need them for anything. I was born in Phx and remember when Jack Williams was Gov, we always had enough money. We need to reduce the Gov handouts

  7. For a long time now I have wondered why Arizona hasn’t done this. I’m glad to see Mr. Harper stepping out and introducing a bill on it. Even though I seriously doubt reporting the movement of illegals will get any federal agents to follow up, it’s an exercise I approve.

  8. Looking at the overall big picture in this country today, a citizen malita may very well be too little too late in relationship to the other myraid of problems we face today.
    The United States government for decades has been in bed with Mexico on this issue and cutting thru the chase on this matter, they have shown token amounts of enforcement to pacify the citizens of America, but still allowing the borders to be pourous even with added enforcement. It appears that the government will always have it’s own way regardless of what challenges citizens raise or attempt to recitify…..

  9. The funny thing is……. this wouldn’t cost the people 10% of what they estimate it would cost. We militia cover 90% of our own costs!!!!!!! The other 10% is donations or we go without. All we would need is state funded grants that would cover 10% of our costs. This would cover food and medical supplies. The rest would and should be voluntary.

  10. The only way for success here that I can see is to fight this battle on both fronts. The border protection front and the social services front, in combination.
    Citizenship proof would have to be established before allowing any state government services. Schooling, licenses, renting or buying houses, etc. These are after all, criminals, here illegally. Arizona must make it difficult or impossible to reside there illegally combined with border control.
    They will slowly move out, hopefully to California.

  11. We want to reduce state government by creating more state government factions? What is the AZ National Guard for? Everybody attacks the easy targets that bog down the system (janitors, landscapers, etc). I say go after the head and give them max prison sentences (people involved in the cartels and human smuggling). Soon they will re-consider running their business out of AZ.

  12. Arizona needs no new legislation. The governor could automatically decide to do a call up for any emergency and the sheriff of any county can do so as well.
    I have been on the border in Arizona, working with the Militia from that state; in fact twenty seven states have sent Militia. If the governor wants to do a general call up and fund it, so we can remain in the field on a rotation basis, then that would be the only way this would be done under the Constitution. Placing the Militia under the National Guard is in violation of most mission statements and violation of the Constitution. It is a conflict of interest because the National Guard no longer belongs to the state; they have been permanently federalized. Under direction of the President, they would turn its guns on the people, incarcerating them in concentration camps or enforcing martial law, using U.S. soldiers as well as foreign troops. Go to Fema ‘s website and Homeland Security to find this: N.L.E 2010.

    I have served in the unorganized Militia for fifteen years. I hold the rank of Major. I have the training and experience to make such a claim. I was appointed as Major of Militia by my former State Commander as Medical Operations Officer.
    I have also been a medic for eighteen years. I have served as a Unit Medic, a Unit Commander and a Corps Commander. Currently I hold the rank of a Major by default, under the old command structure. Currently, I command a detachment of volunteers, training to be advisers in a more complex battle environment.

    If fighting breaks out with North Korea, we have an unconfirmed number; in excess of 70,000; of Chinese Communist Troops in Mexico, just across the border. That in itself would warrant Governor Brewer or any overnor to do a general call up of Militia forces, if these Communist troops are indeed down there, they will sweep up through Arizona and California and couldn’t be stopped till they reach the Rockies and Northern California.

    31st Field Forces Alpha unit
    California State Militia
    Major Mike Force

  13. Hey boys let the feds stand up against its civilians that will start a huge militia movement more than what is going on now.3% till death my brothers,freedom or death. I am here in De I have connected with NJ and now working on meeting with PA militia we are hooking east coast up may not have big numbers small hard hitting groups can move around alot easyier then 100 men all at once.Stand firm in your faith and your beliefs in the constitution for we will be free sooner or later better war in my time than in my childrens time. remeber no more free waco’s or katrina’s we will not disarm we will not back up another inch you can try to kill us if you think you can,but remeber we will shoot back you move Mr.tyranny wanna be.GOD BLESS

  14. The best thing Arizona could do right now is to call up the militia to protect Arizona from the communist ******** who have infiltrated the Federal government. The governor needs to declare anyone who is antagonistic to the welfare and wellbeing of the state to be a domestic enemy and have them arrested if they attempt to interfere with Arizona’s sovereign self-protective actions. If Obama enters Arizona he needs to be Arrested and DEPORTED since he is unable to confirm his citizenship. If anyone disputes these actions then let him instead rot in prison for fraud and insurrection. No excuses and no apologies, we need to bring America back from the hands of the NWO communist traitors.

  15. As a member of the Arizona Border Defenders we report activity to the Border Patrol, and they do the rest. Training is a must, without it. it becomes
    meaningless.I don’t think we have till next year. The way the government is working against us in that fast and furious deal is ludicrous. We must organize
    and train. Keep up our skills, at least mentality and physically.

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