Arizonans are bearing the brunt of the chaos along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In June, Customs and Border Protection officials apprehended – and mostly released – 188,000 people living here illegally. That’s nearly 6,000 border crossers a day, the highest June figure in over two decades. Typically the flow abates in scorching summer months. But not this year.
We shouldn’t be surprised. President Biden lifted immigration restrictions as soon as he took office, inviting the world to storm the border. Arizona towns have been flooded with people who crossed the border illegally, many of whom are released despite testing positive for Covid.
In the immediate term, this crisis means more emergencies caused by human trafficking and the other crime that swirls around it.
In the longer term, it will further strain both infrastructure and natural resources. Over 35 years ending in 2017, the Arizona population grew by 144%, according to a new study by environmental planner Leon Kolankiewicz. He found that this growth – nearly half of it due to international migration – led to depleted aquifers and reservoirs, as well as severe endangerment of species like the Yuma clapper rail and the ocelot.
We also know, both from lived experience and economic studies, that illegal immigration depresses wages for lower-income Americans. As many Arizonans struggle to get back on their feet following the pandemic, this fresh wave of job seekers could hurt Arizona workers again.
For all these reasons, immigration will be a key concern in the 2022 midterm elections. In our state, would-be Republican candidates are already vying for the opportunity to oust Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, who won narrowly in 2020. The latest contender to enter the race is Blake Masters, who came out swinging in July with a strong stance on the issue.
Raised in Tucson, Masters earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Stanford University, then went on to work for Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist and Donald Trump donor. At 34, Masters is the chief operating officer of Thiel Capital, a multi-billion-dollar firm, and runs the Thiel Foundation, which grants money to young people to start companies instead of going to college. The married father of three moved back to Arizona in 2018.
In announcing his candidacy, Masters highlighted a handful of issues, but first among them was his ambition to “secure the border and reduce immigration.” He correctly called the U.S. border with Mexico “a disaster.”
More importantly, he proposed concrete steps to end the current mess.
They include physical barriers like the one begun under President Trump, as well as surveillance technology. As someone who began his career in Silicon Valley, Masters is poised to bring border control into the 21st century, with biometric data collection, high-tech cameras and sensors, and data crunching for better decision making.
He’s also called for thousands more U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.
And he favors mandatory E-Verify, which lets employers ascertain workers’ legal status – so that big businesses can no longer feign ignorance when they hire cheap, illegal laborers.
Those are some of Masters’ ideas to tackle illegal immigration. We also need to update our legal immigration system, which currently allows around a million new arrivals per year, whether our economy is thriving not. That doesn’t make sense.
Finally, our political-asylum system is frequently abused, and our temporary-visa program benefits business much more than workers. In short, the whole system needs an overhaul, and Masters has promised to do his best to make that happen.
With the U.S. Senate now split 50-50 along partisan lines, gaining a new voice for sensible immigration reform could make a real difference to federal policy – and thankfully, we have an opportunity to gain such a voice as soon as next year.
Others have thrown their hat in the ring, but Masters has gone further, staking out his position on this matter of crucial importance to Arizonans.
Rusty Childress is a Phoenix-based nature photographer and founder of United for a Sovereign America, which works to promote border security and comprehensive enforcement of immigration laws.