McCain In a Firestorm Over Comments on Illegal Immigrants & Wildfires

By Eliza

Jun 20, 2011 12:43pm

ABC News' Sunlen Miller (@sunlenmiller) reports:

In comments made over the weekend, Senator John McCain R-AZ., blamed illegal immigrants for the some wildfires that have raged across his state of Arizona.

“There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally," McCain said Saturday at a press conference. "The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border."’

The Senator from Arizona’s comments set off a wildfire of their own, as the Wallow Fire currently blazes across his state across 500,000 miles.

A forest service spokesman on the Wallow fire in Arizona says there's no evidence that this specific fire was caused by immigrants.

Tom Berglund, spokesman for the federal group managing the Wallow fire that McCain toured Saturday, said the cause of the fire has been determined as "human," specifically an "escaped campfire," meaning the campfire sparked beyond the confines of the rocks containing it.

Two "subjects of interest" have been spoken to, but as of now, no suspect has been named, Berglund said. When asked if there is substantial evidence that some fires were caused by illegal immigrants, as McCain said at a news conference Saturday, Berglund said: "Absolutely not, at this level."

"There's no evidence that I'm aware, no evidence that's been public, indicating such a thing," he said.

Latino groups are angered at McCain for "fanning the flames of intolerance." 

McCain’s office today pushed back, and emphasized that the Senator said “some” wildfire are started this way – not all, and that he was speaking about other fires, not the Wallow Fire.

“The facts are clear.  For years, federal, state and local officials have stated that smugglers and illegal immigrants have caused fires on our southern border,” Brooke Buchanan, Communications Director for Senator McCain said in a statement today, “During the press conference on Saturday, Senator McCain was referring to fires on the Arizona/Mexico border, not the Wallow Fire.”

In July of 2010 McCain and three other senators requested a Government Accountability Office study to examine the connection between wildfires caused by illegal immigrants and smugglers occurring within 100 miles of Arizona’s border with Mexico over the last five years.

The report is due out later this year, his office says.

McCain’s staff provided “supporting statements”  as evidence from Federal and State Officials that they say substantiate Senator McCain’s comments that some wildfires are caused by illegal immigrants.

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