John McCain (R-AZ) says illegal immigrants are to blame for the massive wildfires that have ravaged Arizona.
“There is substantial evidence that some of these fires are caused by people who have crossed our border illegally,” McCain, said at a press conference Saturday after touring the Wallow fire, which began on May 29 and has burned over 500,000 acres to date.
“They have set fires because they signal others, they have set fires to keep warm, and they have set fires in order to divert law enforcement agents and agencies from them,” McCain said. “The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border.”
McCain did not provide any evidence to support his claim, however.
On Sunday, Tom Berglund, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman, told ABC News that there is no evidence that illegal immigrants had caused the Wallow fire. “Absolutely not, at this level,” Berglund said. “There’s no evidence that I’m aware, no evidence that’s been public, indicating such a thing.”
Berglund did say, however, that the cause of the Wallow fire, now the largest wildfire in Arizona history, had been determined to be human — specifically an “escaped campfire.” Two persons of interest were questioned, but no arrests were made.
Latino groups sharply criticized McCain for his remarks. “With the lack of evidence, he might as well also blame aliens from outer space for the fires,” Angelo Falcon, the president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, told CNN. Randy Parraz, whose organization Citizens for a Better Arizon, is trying to recall the senator who sponsored the state’s controversial anti-illegal immigration law, called McCain’s remarks “careless and reckless.”
“It’s easier to fan the flames of intolerance, especially in Arizona,” he said.