Need a Quick and Thoughtless Response to Any Public Policy Issue in Arizona? Blame Immigrants.

John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, has spent the last three years championing regressive measures like his home state’s SB1070 “Papers Please” law and privately expressing anger and frustration over Latino support for Barack Obama at the polls three years ago.

Now, the man who championed the 2006 Senate bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants is blaming migrants for the fires that have devastated vast area of Arizona and New Mexico.

From CNN:

Sen. John McCain is blaming illegal immigrants for starting some of the wildfires that have scorched hundreds of thousands of acres in Arizona.

“There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally,” McCain, R-Arizona, said Saturday at a press conference. “The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border.”

McCain’s statements are troublesome in a number of ways. By claiming that a secure border would solve the nation’s immigration problems, McCain furthers the view that a fenced-up southern border is an urgent necessity.

A shut border is an impossible goal, grounded in the nativist imagination and supported by private and military contractors eager to build a taxpayer-funded industrial complex out of immigrant surveillance and detention. A more militarized southern border does nothing to address the complex root causes of migration. The economic push factors that drive Mexicans and Central Americans to take the risk of crossing the border without inspection will remain, and human and drug traffickers will continue to operate underground migration services for these desolate populations.

Moreover, McCain’s statements further the “us vs. them” mentality that has led to atrocious policies of restriction that damage the economy and social trust. It may very well be that an unattended campsite on a migrant trail was the result of the fires (made worse by a regional drought that may be affected by climate change). But McCain should lead like a statesman, letting the respective agencies investigate the cause of the fires and refraining from providing distractions that further divide people. After all, the establishment of desert crossings is directly related to the failures of politicians like McCain forcing our society into a futile and expensive quest for a close border, which began in urban crossings and has driven migrants to the desert.