McCain defends comments on linking illegal immigrants to wildfires
Sen. John McCain on Monday defended a statement he made over the weekend that there was "substantial evidence" border crossers were partly responsible for wildfires in the state.
The Associated Press
SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. — Sen. John McCain on Monday defended a statement he made over the weekend that there was "substantial evidence" border crossers were partly responsible for wildfires in the state.
Two other Arizona Republicans stood with him. But activists swiftly jumped on McCain's statement as "scapegoating."
Authorities say the three major blazes in Arizona were started by humans but didn't have details.
About 10,000 people remained evacuated on the outskirts of Sierra Vista, 15 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, where the so-called Monument fire swept off a mountain and destroyed 14 homes and four businesses.
The blaze was 27 percent contained as of Monday. The fire now has destroyed 58 homes and burned more than 40 square miles.
Despite burning more than 800 square miles, the Wallow fire along the New Mexico border has destroyed 32 homes and four rental cabins. Containment rose to 51 percent Monday.
The third major fire in Arizona, in the southeastern part of the state, was 80 percent contained after charring more than 330 square miles since it started May 8. The Horseshoe Two fire has destroyed 23 structures.
Officials say all three blazes are the result of human activity.
The issue heated up over the weekend when McCain told media:
"There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally. The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border."
The statement brought a quick reaction.
"It's his constant refrain for everything that ails mankind," said Roberto Reveles, of Somos America, an Arizona-based immigration-rights group. "It's amazing that the public doesn't rebel against this type of scapegoating."
McCain and fellow Arizona Republicans Sen. Jon Kyl and Rep. Paul Gosar released a joint statement Monday defending McCain, saying they had been told some fires in the southern part of the state are started by illegal immigrants.
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