Once again, Arizona governor jumps into debate over illegal immigration

A border patrol agent monitors the international border in Arizona.
A border patrol agent monitors the international border in Arizona.

With President Barack Obama scheduled to give a speech on immigration on July 1, 2010, we decided it would be a good time to return to the question of illegal immigration. We looked at a statement by Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer that linked "a majority" of illegal immigrants to drug smuggling.

Brewer initially created a frenzy in April 2010 when she signed a law that makes being an illegal immigrant a state crime and requires legal immigrants to carry papers that confirm their status. Then in late June, she offered a string of comments over several days that suggested that many illegal immigrants are involved in drug smuggling.

The specific statement we checked was, "Well, we all know that the majority of the people that are coming to Arizona and trespassing are now becoming drug mules." We talked to experts and looked over statistical data to see whether Brewer was justified in her claim.

We concluded that she would have been on safe ground if she'd said that drug smuggling and human smuggling have become increasingly intertwined, and that sometimes, illegal immigrants have been coerced into serving as drug couriers. But she went far beyond that by saying that "the majority" are drug mules. Here is our report.