Video: On the Arizona border

By George Lewis Correspondent
NBC News
updated 5/17/2006 9:59:36 PM ET 2006-05-18T01:59:36

Fifty percent of all the illegal immigrants apprehended coming into America are arrested in Arizona. And here, in what's known as the Yuma sector, there has been a 12 percent increase this year in the numbers arrested.

The Border Patrol says it has arrested 355,000 people in Arizona since October — a pretty heavy workload for this state's 3,300 Border Patrol officers.

The mayor of Yuma, Lawrence Nelson, says his city's social services are burdened by illegal immigrants. He wants Washington to crack down hard.

“First, secure the border,” he says, “Take care of the balance of it later, we can work that out, how to deal with those who are already here.”

Many illegal immigrants wind up picking crops in the local fields, where it's tough to tell who's here legally and who's not.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., says these people need to be treated humanely. 

“If those workers were not there,” he says, “we would not have the food that we have on our tables that we eat every day in this country.”

Then there are the Yuma Patriots, a local group that says the country is being invaded. They patrol the border on their own.

“Do you have your pepper spray?” Patriots' leader David “Flash” Sharrar asks his members. “Do you have your air horns? Do you have your flashlights? You believe in this country? And we're about to stop an epidemic.”

The Patriots, who patrol mainly at night, claim they've assisted in the arrest of 1,500 illegal immigrants. And their leader doesn't think President Bush's visit Thursday will accomplish much.

“It's lip service and it's a ‘Johnny feel-good for Yuma,’” Sharrar says. “We want something done about our border.”

And on this part of the border, there's no end of debate about what to do.

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