As The Los Angeles Times reports, add another complaint to the frenzy over illegal immigrants and the “damage” they cause:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Monday defended his statement over the weekend that illegal immigrants were responsible for some Arizona wildfires, citing congressional testimony and published reports to back his claim.
Speaking from his home state Saturday, McCain said there was “substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally.” He didn’t specify what evidence, however [Pols emphasis]…
…Speaking on the “Imus in the Morning” show Monday, McCain stood by his statement.
“I was briefed by the Forest Service about the fact that illegal immigrants sometimes start these fires,” he said. And there has been testimony by service officials that “large numbers of warming and cooking fires built and abandoned by cross-border violators have caused wildfires that have destroyed cultural and natural resources.”
He also cited a Los Angeles Times report backing his claim, though it was unclear which story he was referring to.
Imus challenged McCain, though, saying the reports don’t prove illegal immigrants were responsible for the so-called Wallow blaze raging through eastern parts of the state.
McCain said he never was referring to the specific fire in his remarks. [Pols emphasis]
First off, kudos to Imus for not just nodding at McCain’s claims and actually challenging what he had to say.
Perhaps McCain is referring to the same band of invisible illegal immigrants whom Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler “almost certainly” have voted in past elections, despite a complete lack of evidence that this has ever happened in Colorado. And not that they haven’t looked — Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner — a Republican in a heavy Republican county — recently went public about her concerns that the SOS office doesn’t seem to have any records of any illegal immigrants having voted in Colorado, although that’s not what Gessler has told Congress and anyone else who will listen.
Look, illegal immigration is an important issue that deserves a serious discussion. But we can’t have those discussions when elected officials are always tossing around unconfirmed accusations about illegal immigrants casting ballots, causing fires, and beheading people in the desert. None of this does anything to address the actual problem of illegal immigration, and it devolves the entire discussion into a silly game of finger-pointing. What difference does this make, anyway? Are illegal immigrants known to be less careful with matches than legal residents? Can we now classify illegal immigrants as a “fire hazard?”
In our view this isn’t about defending or opposing illegal immigrants. This is about something much more fundamentally important — elected officials should not be allowed to just toss out harmful accusations against anybody without proof.
If McCain had accused an individual person of setting these fires, people would be elbowing each other trying to be the first to condemn his remarks. If McCain had said, I’m told that Ed Smith of Tucson set these fires. I don’t have any proof, but I’m pretty sure. — he would be absolutely roasted (pun intended) by the media and opinion makers on both sides of the aisle. But if he makes a baseless generic accusation against a faceless group of people — like illegal immigrants — then it’s not as big of a deal somehow. Yet it is still so very wrong, and so very irresponsible.
Perhaps this is all just a misdirection ruse so that people won’t realize that U.S. Senators actually set the fires in Arizona. We don’t have any proof of that, but we read it somewhere in a newspaper once, and this guy who we think works for the government confirmed the story.