Bill calls for $1.9M to fund armed, volunteer militia in AZ
Supporters say AZ needs to beef up its border, but critics are afraid arming volunteers could pose a major liability. Claire Doan reports.Photo: Video by kgun9.com
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV/AP) - Another way to fight illegal immigrants and drug traffickers at the border: A force made up entirely of volunteers and funded by the state. It's the idea behind a bill making its way through the state legislature - and according to experts, if it passes Arizona will be the first to have a citizen militia focused on fighting crime at the border.
The bill, sponsored by State Senator Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake), passed in the Senate Appropriations Committee by 7-6 vote Tuesday.
Governor Brewer created the state guard last year with through an executive order. Senate Bill 1083 calls for $1.9 million to activate that force. Supporters say what is being called the Special Missions Unit would help alleviate problems at the border, but critics warn it could be more of a liability than a benefit.
Most state guards help with disaster and recovery efforts, but this would be the first to fight international criminal activity.
"This is something once again that we're forced into very tough decisions because of the lack of responsibility, the lack of concern the federal government has shown toward this significant problem in the country," said State Representative Vic Williams (R-Tucson), who believes the bill is necessary.
Allen said in the Tuesday hearing that volunteers will not have to be certified by the Peace Officers Standards and Training Board. Allen estimates that the bill would put about 250 to 300 people at the border, who would get paid $100 a day.
"They can pursue, they can detain, and they can arrest until law enforcement shows up. That's the only aspect of law enforcement they'll be doing," Allen said.
However, critics like State Senator Paula Aboud (D-Tucson) are worried about how the militia would recruit and vet the members - and the problems that may arise with citizens taking charge.
"If a volunteer commits an act of harm to other individuals, is the state liable? My understanding is that the volunteer will not be liable, but that puts the state on the hook," Aboud said, adding the bill is a little too broad.
Aboud, who is a part of the Senate Appropriations Committee, voted against the bill.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the number of agents at the border has doubled in the last decade and apprehensions are down drastically.
Governor Brewer did not respond to our request for comment. Border Patrol said it's inappropriate to weigh in, since it's a state issue.