A new measure introduced by State Sen. Al Melvin would give Cochise County $200,000 to send "a volunteer security force to the United States-Mexico border."
Melvin, a Tucson Republican, introduced the bill, which would also establish a "border security commission" as part of a strike-all amendment, meaning it replaces a bill introduced earlier and doesn't go through as many steps of consideration.
"There are many of us, including me, who would like to see the concept of the Minutemen come back. I think there's a way to make it work," Melvin said Friday in explaining the effort to establish a volunteer force.
Under the bill, the $200,000 would be taken from the state's "Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission" task force. It would be distributed to the Cochise County Sheriff's Office for equipping and establishing a pilot program using volunteers on the border.
Told of the proposal Friday afternoon, Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever said he hadn't heard of it and isn't sure whether he'd support it. But, he added, "I always have been all for a well-trained, well-regulated reserve organization."
Sen. Paula Aboud, a Tucson Democrat, was the only member to vote against the measure in the Senate Appropriations Commit-tee this week. She opposes the creation of what she calls "a posse, or a vigilante group."
"You have to be so careful when you're bringing volunteers in to do the work of the state," she said Friday. "You take a huge risk in terms of liability of the state" in case one of the volunteers acts inappropriately or commits a crime.
The amendment would also create a border-security commission, whose conclusions are largely predetermined. The commission would be made up of 16 members, including state appointees and federal-agency representatives, and would be assigned to meet monthly. The measure also requires certain conclusions from the commission, among them:
• To recommend the establishment of 12 forward operating bases along the Arizona-Mexico border between the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation and New Mexico.
• To recommend the immediate deployment of operational units of the United States military to Arizona's border with Mexico.
• To recommend the addition of 3,000 more U.S. Border Patrol agents in Arizona.
Aboud found that procedure strange.
"Typically you create a commission and you ask them to study something. He's creating a commission and telling them what to do," she said.
But Melvin argued that such recommendations are a way give the commission a head start, so it's not just another do-nothing task force.
"We wanted to put some teeth in it," he said.
Aboud also criticized the fact that the bill arose as a strike-all amendment, which didn't allow, she said, for adequate deliberation.
"This is an emotionally charged plan," she said.
But Melvin said he worked that way because he wants to get the bill passed before the approaching end of the session. He acknowledged working with the Arizona Cattlemen's Association, state Sen. Russell Pearce and others to put the bill together in the wake of the March 27 killing of border-area rancher Robert Krentz.
Contact reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 or at firstname.lastname@example.org