"substantial evidence that some of these fires have been
caused by people who have crossed our border illegally..."
By: Mark Smith
June 21, 2011
The former Republican presidential candidate John McCain has been accused of "scapegoating" Mexicans over comments he made linking wildfires in his home state of Arizona to illegal immigration.
The issue ignited over the weekend when the US senator said there was "substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally. The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border".
Two other Arizona Republicans backed McCain, but immigration activists swiftly condemned his statement as typical of a "blame it on the Mexicans" mentality. Democratic politicians also waded in to rebuke McCain's politicisation of the issue.
"It's his constant refrain for everything that ails mankind," said Roberto Reveles, founder of Somos America, an Arizona-based immigrant rights group. "It just seems like we have an epidemic of 'blame it all on the illegal aliens; blame it all on the Mexicans'. It's amazing that the public doesn't rebel against this type of scapegoating."
Republican senator Jon Kyl and house representative Paul Gosar defended McCain, claiming they had been told some fires in the southern part of the state are started by illegal immigrants. They did not specify to which fires they were referring, but framed the resulting debate as a distraction.
"While Arizonans continue to face the enormous challenges related to these wildfires, it's unfortunate that some are inserting their political agenda into this tragedy," their statement said.
This assertion raised the hackles of Arizona Democrat and house representative Raul Grijalva. "They served this, they pandered it," he said. "And now [they] say that anybody who criticises that inappropriate, unsubstantiated claim somehow has a political agenda. This is a tragedy of huge proportions for Arizona. Those of us who criticise it are only reacting to what they started."