Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) thinks that the some of the massive wildfires in Arizona are the fault of illegal immigrants.
"We are concerned about, particularly, areas down on the border where there is substantial evidence that some of these fires are caused by people who have crossed our border illegally," the former Republican presidential candidate said at a press conference Saturday. "They have set fires because the want to 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."
"The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border," he added.
UPDATE: John Amato:
John McCain, who once led an effort for immigration reform until he was beat back by Rush Limbaugh, FOX News and hate talk AM radio now has joined them in their demonization of illegals. We don't know what caused the fires in Arizona as of yet, but McCain saw an opportunity and grabbed it.
The Arizona senator, however, did not say what the evidence is, prompting a swift rebuke from Latino civil rights advocates.
"It's easier to fan the flames of intolerance, especially in Arizona," said Randy Parraz, a civil rights advocate who ran unsuccessfully against McCain as a Democratic candidate in 2010.
Parraz called McCain's remarks "careless and reckless" but not entirely surprising given the political climate in Arizona. The Latino advocate is co-founder of Citizens for a Better Arizona, a group trying the recall the legislator who authored the state's controversial anti-illegal immigration law.
Parraz said McCain "should know better" than to make such an accusation without presenting any facts.
Parraz said it is particularly distressing that immigrants are being blamed for destructive fires at a time when many are also being targeted given the state's unemployment, foreclosure and other economic issues.
"People are looking for someone to blame," he said, claiming it is too easy and convenient to target what he called one of Arizona's "most vulnerable populations."
Angelo Falcon, the president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, criticized McCain for what he called "increasingly blatant" political opportunism. "The degree of irresponsible political pandering by Sen. McCain has no limits," Falcon said in an email to CNN. "With the lack of evidence, he might as well also blame aliens from outer space for the fires."