Politics

McCain Blames Ariz. Wildfires on Illegal Mexican Immigrants

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

Senator John McCain has expressed a controversial opinion about the many wildfires currently burning in Arizona: He believes some of them were started by illegal immigrants from Mexico.

"There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally," McCain said in a press conference. "They have set fires because they want to to signal others, they have set firs to keep warm, and they have set fires to divert law enforcement agencies from them.The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border."

Latino activists have slammed McCain for his opinions, especially because he didn't cite any evidence for his claim that Mexican immigrants had set the fires.

Arizona civil rights activist Randy Parraz said, "People are looking for someone to blame." He called McCain's accusations "careless and reckless," and said he "should know better." The Latino population in Arizona, said Parraz, is one of the "most vulnerable populations," and is an easy scapegoat for people like McCain.

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Because McCain has no hard facts to back up his statement, he looks like a racist. It may be true that these fires were set -- rather than caused by accident -- and police are currently looking into their causes. If there's no evidence, however, to suggest the race of the perpetrators or that there even were any perpetratorsm, McCain seems like he's baiting the Latino community. I'm not sure how he thinks this tactic will benefit him.

The five Arizona fires currently burning include the Wallow fire and the Monument fire. So far, they've burned 732,427 acres. On Sunday, people were evacuated from their homes as the Monument fire was fanned by gusty winds and picked up speed. It jumped Highway 92, went down a mountain and began burning an area containing many homes. There have been few casualties so far.

The Wallow fire, which was headed for a heavily populated community, went around it, and instead is aiming for a less dense area to the north. It's the largest wildfire in Arizona history: it's burned 511,000 acres so far, and is only 51% contained.