Arizona Predator drone bid intensifies immigration reform debate

predator drone on runway at sunset

Arizona wants Predator drones to prowl the border for illegal aliens, adding fuel to the controversy over the Arizona immigration law. photo.

Arizona wants Predator drones to prowl the U.S.-Mexico border in its campaign to crack down on illegal immigrants. Arizona also wants more attack helicopters. Arizona Republican governor Janice Brewer’s requests for military hardware, combined with Arizona’s controversial immigration law, are giving Arizona an increasingly militant image as the Grand Canyon state has become the epicenter of the debate on immigration reform in 2010.

Arizona immigration law condemned

The Arizona Predator drone request was made in a letter Brewer wrote to President Obama asking that the National Guard for a personal loan reallocating reconnaissance helicopters and robotic surveillance craft to the “border states” from other parts of the country. reports that her letter was dated May 20, the day that Mexican President Felipe Calderon met with Obama at the White House, condemned Arizona’s new immigration law before Congress and later attended a state dinner.

Predator drones in Arizona skies

Arizona currently has three Predator drones patrolling the border there. Brewer’s request for more Arizona Predator drones comes a few weeks after Texas politicians said they had reached an agreement with the federal government to deliver Predator drones for surveillance on the Texas border this fall. The Austin American Statesman reports that discussions in Washington have centered on bringing one Predator drone to Texas to be deployed along the border with Mexico to fight drug trafficking, human smuggling and violent Mexican drug cartels.

Immigration illegal in Arizona

Brewer signed the Arizona immigration bill into law on April 23, and she has said she is trying to pick up the slack for the federal government in cracking down on illegal immigration and drug trafficking along the border. The Arizona immigration law goes into effect in July and requires police to “determine the immigration status” of anyone under “reasonable suspicion” of being an illegal alien. The law transfers responsibility from federal immigration authorities to state police.

Arizona wants more choppers, too

In her letter to the president requesting more Arizona predator drones, the governor also asked for OH-58 Kiowa helicopters used by the military for reconnaissance. The governor said a fleet of eight to 10 Kiowa helicopters would double Arizona’s aerial border coverage to 2,000 hours per year.

Predators popular for immigration reformers

Brewer’s request for more Arizona Predator drones comes as more federal lawmakers and state politicians are demanding that the office of Customs and Border Protection unleash more Predator aircraft on the U.S.-Mexico border. As reported on, supporters of the idea say the Predator’s multimillion-dollar price tag — the camera alone can cost more than $2 million — is worth it. The drone patrols remote areas of the border where ground agents don’t have consistent access. Customs and Border Protection says it has six of the robotic planes.

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