FACT CHECK: ABC15 Investigator's fact-check former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith on immigration

After thousands of unaccompanied minors crossed the border into Arizona, immigration once again became a hotbed issue in the primary elections.

The ABC15 Investigators have been fact-checking political ads for the Republican primary for governor. Most deal with illegal immigration.

Next up: Former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith’s ad on the issue

“Governor Brewer was right, Barack Obama’s failed immigration policy threatens lives and our national security,” Smith said in the ad. “We must secure our borders. We must stop the coyotes. We must send back the thousands lured into our country by organized crime.”

The former Mesa mayor seems to be the only candidate focusing on the cartels, coyotes and organized crime that is spurring much of the illegal immigration on our southern border.

And he’s right. According to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, “almost all” of the children who flooded our borders were brought by human smugglers.

The ad continues: “As mayor, we enforced the law, apprehended illegal immigrants…”

You have to be careful here, because immigration laws aren’t enforceable by anyone but federal agents, but the Smith campaign was quick to recognize that when we asked.

What Smith is referring to here is the fact that Mesa has contracted with the federal government since 2009 to enforce some federal immigration laws under the 287(g) program.

That means that Mesa law enforcement are trained in immigration enforcement and every person booked into jail in Mesa is screened for their immigration status.

The ad goes onto to say that Smith “made Mesa one of the safest big cities in America.”

This checks out. Smith became mayor of Mesa in 2008. In 2012, the FBI’s Unified Crime Report found Mesa to be one of the safest cities in the country. It had the third lowest violent crime rate in the nation.

Q&A WITH THE SMITH CAMPAIGN:

Question: What does Mr. Smith see as the Obama administration’s “failed immigration policy,” as he describes it in the ad? 

Answer: The Obama Administration divided our country over immigration instead of bringing people together and finding a permanent solution to our broken system. From failing to secure our border, to pushing policies that spurred an influx of border-crossers, to busing and dumping illegal immigrants in Arizona, the Obama Administration has shown over and over through their actions that they are not serious about fixing our broken system.

Question: How does Mr. Smith plan to secure the state’s borders and fight coyotes as Arizona’s governor, recognizing that immigration laws are federal and not state domain?

Answer: Mayor Smith has consistently pointed out that the federal government is responsible for securing the border. As Governor, he will lead the conversation to fix our system and engage in Washington to ensure that the Administration and Congress commit the necessary resources to secure our border with Mexico. He will also work with local law enforcement agencies to shut down the cartels' pipeline, ensuring our law enforcement agencies have the tools and resources to fight drug cartels and human smuggling rings.

Question: In the ad, Mr. Smith states that in Mesa, “we enforced the law [and] apprehended illegal immigrants.” Is he referring to the city’s contract with DHS under 287(g)? How many illegal immigrants have been apprehended by Mesa law enforcement under that contract?

Answer: Under Mayor Smith’s leadership, Mesa was the first city in Arizona to provide immigration enforcement training to every sworn officer. Jail personnel received 287(g) training and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were embedded within the Mesa police force. Immigration status was checked for every person arrested. These reforms were implemented two years prior to the passage of SB1070 and were implemented with a balanced approach that prioritized public safety and respected basic rights.

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