Published: 11.15.2005

Emergency quest for border-aid funds ends
By Howard Fischer

PHOENIX - Gov. Janet Napolitano has quietly dropped plans to seek federal emergency funds to help pay for more law enforcement along Arizona's southern border.

The governor said Monday that she believes the request would be a fruitless pursuit that would "fall on deaf bureaucratic ears" at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

And an aide said the governor's decision was based, at least in part, on the billions of dollars the federal government is spending on relief after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

But the reversal also comes more than a month after a spokesman for the agency that oversees these programs questioned whether the expenses Napolitano wanted the federal government to cover really fit the legal definition of an emergency.

Napolitano said she instead will push for Washington to do more on an ongoing basis to help Arizona and its border communities deal with the problems of illegal border crossers.

"The federal government has failed in its responsibility in securing our border," Napolitano said. "They have ignored paying their bills to the states, stretched National Guard resources thin, and have ducked real reform for years."

Some help appears to be coming. Congress earlier this month boosted funding for the State Criminal Assistance Alien Program, which reimburses states for the cost of incarcerating illegal entrants convicted of state crimes. The new formula provides $405 million nationwide, up from $355 million.

But gubernatorial press aide Jeanine L'Ecuyer, said that while Napolitano appreciates the efforts of U.S. Rep Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., the cash amounts to "pennies on the dollar" of what the state is owed. Napolitano's office figures Arizona was due $71 million last year. It got less than $7 million.

The governor began seeking a federal emergency declaration weeks after she used her own powers to declare a state of emergency in Cochise, Santa Cruz, Pima and Yuma counties.