Fanning the flames of racism in Arizona, Senator John McCain has blamed illegal immigrants for starting some of the wildfires that have torched hundreds of thousands of acres in his state.
The Daily Mail reports that McCain told a press conference on Saturday that there is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally.
The Solution To Wildfires: A Secure Border?
From The Daily Mail:
The Republican senator added: ‘They have set fires because they want to to signal others, they have set firs to keep warm, and they have set fires to divert law enforcement agencies from them.
‘The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border’.
However, Senator McCain was neither able to give any evidence for his charges, nor to name a source.
Strong Reaction From Latino Civil Rights Advocates
Understandably, this provoked a strong reaction from Latino civil rights advocates.
“It’s easier to fan the flames of intolerance, especially in Arizona,” said Randy Parraz, a civil rights advocate who ran unsuccessfully against McCain as a Democratic candidate in 2010.
Parraz called McCain’s remarks “careless and reckless” but not entirely surprising given the political climate in Arizona. The Latino advocate is co-founder of Citizens for a Better Arizona, a group trying the recall the legislator who authored the state’s controversial anti-illegal immigration law.
Parraz said McCain “should know better” than to make such an accusation without presenting any facts.
“People are looking for someone to blame,” he said, claiming it is too easy and convenient to target what he called one of Arizona’s “most vulnerable populations.”
The McCain Version? Or The U.S. Forest Service Version?
For a different version of this story, the U.S. Forest Service last Wednesday said that two people have been questioned in connection with an unattended campfire which is believed to have started the Wallow blaze.
As first reported in The Daily Mail, the ‘two persons of interest’ have not been publicly identified and are not under arrest, Forest Service spokesman Christopher Knopp said, declining to give further details of the investigation.
51 Percent Containment Of Wallow Blaze On Sunday
The Wallow blaze, the largest of the Arizona fires, has consumed nearly 800 square miles, a little more than 511,000 acres, and more than 3,500 firefighters have been trying to stop its advance.
It is larger than a 2002 fire that burned 732 square miles and destroyed 491 buildings that had been the largest in state history. Despite its size, the latest fire has destroyed just 32 homes and four rental cabins. Containment rose to 51 per cent Sunday.
Meanwhile, about 3,000 people from 1,700 homes were evacuated Sunday as the Monument blaze, which has been burning for a week, picked up speed with winds gusted up to 60 mph. Sunday’s evacuations brought the total number to about 10,000 people from 4,300 homes forced to flee flames of the Monument fire.
Why Fan The Flames Of Intolerance?
With such a major tragedy unfolding in his home state, why is Senator McCain trying to make matters worse by fanning the flames of intolerance?
Why is he choosing to stir up the racially charged rhetoric in Arizona, playing to the voters’ fears, following the example of Governor Jan Brewer, who famously accused illegal immigrants of murders involving decapitation, a claim that she later retracted?
Come on, Senator McCain. You can do better than that.
Photo Credit: Soggydan via Creative Commons