PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey says building a wall isn’t the only way to provide security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
One of the four U.S. governors whose states share a boundary with Mexico, Ducey says solid walls, fences, law enforcement officers on the ground and advanced technology are all tools the United States can draw from to protect the country from illegal drugs and human trafficking entering from the south.
“I don’t think it’s one thing and not the others,” Ducey said on the eve of Arizona’s 2019 legislative session, during a brief interview in his office that touched on numerous issues.
The Republican governor was careful not to comment directly on President Donald Trump’s current demand that Congress fund his long-promised border wall as a partial government shutdown sparked by the standoff drags on. Arizona’s trade with Mexico is a big part of Ducey’s economic program and he’s never been enthusiastic about Trump’s insistence on a physical wall as a primary way to provide border security.
Instead, Ducey said a “combination of factors” is needed to make the international boundary more secure, a “border wall where necessary, a physical barrier, a fence, technology, surveillance, boots on the ground, a focus on the bad guys.”
Ducey made border security a key issue of his 2018 campaign for re-election, and during his first term created the multi-agency Arizona Border Strike Force to focus on border area crime, especially drug smuggling.
He noted that two-thirds of Arizona’s border already has some kind of wall or other physical barrier, but “there are other places where you go and walk right across … and to me that’s a real concern.”
“Whatever we have is going to need to be surveilled in some fashion. There are many places where surveillance is lacking or missing,” said Ducey.
“Technology can be incredibly helpful,” he said. “So much has changed in the last 10 years around technology, drones, satellite information.”
Asked whether there is a crisis on the border, the governor said: “If the definition of a crisis is something that is unstable and where there is danger, we certainly have that. Look at the drug trafficking and human smuggling and child sex trafficking.”
Speaking earlier about the legislative session opening Monday, Ducey identified Arizona’s water future as the top issue.
“We want to work with the Legislature to pass the drought contingency plan,” he said. “It’s important, and it’s urgent.”
He also named school safety another key issue in a state that so far has been spared from any mass shootings on campus.
Ducey said Arizona must take a proactive approach to protecting its schools from such attacks by keeping weapons out of the hands of unstable people and even putting armed guards on campus.
But he drew the line at arming teachers, saying: “I want to see teachers teaching.”
The governor said funding for the 20 percent pay raise package he approved for teachers would be a priority in the state’s upcoming budget and that “we are halfway there.” Teachers ended a six-day walkout last year after Ducey signed the package.