McCain, Immigrants, and Freeway Accidents

| Wed Apr. 21, 2010 3:31 PM EDT

On Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) went on the O'Reilly Factor to talk about Arizona's controversial new immigration law. The Huffington Post has a story on one thing McCain said:

When asked by host Bill O'Reilly if he was comfortable with the possibility of racial profiling, McCain said he wold be "very sorry" if it happened, but suggested it's justified because of "the people whose homes and property are being violated. It's the drive-by that—the drivers of cars with illegals in it that are intentionally causing accidents on the freeway."

McCain added: "Look, our border is not secured. Our citizens are not safe." But the Arizona senator did not provide any additional details to back up his assertion about cars carrying illegal immigrants "intentionally causing accidents."

So what was he talking about? While McCain often says odd things—"I never considered myself a maverick"—the claim that illegal immigrants are "intentionally causing accidents on the freeway" is an awfully weird thing to just make up. My theory is that McCain was referring to the "swoop and squat," a form of insurance fraud that involves intentionally causing freeway accidents. Mother Jones was among the first outlets to report on the scheme, back in 1993

Over the past year, the accident has become known to insurance investigators and law enforcement officials as far away as Texas, Georgia, Illinois, Florida, and New York. The incident that took place on Golden State Freeway June 17, 1992, has brought to public attention the existence of organized crime rings that stage "swoop-and-squat" accidents, in which poor immigrants (or others in need of quick cash) are paid to place their bodies in the paths of cars and trucks, playing a kind of Russian roulette with their lives and those of unsuspecting motorists around them.

The original article, by Ashley Craddock and Mordecai Lawrence, has a lot more detail (and color) on the scheme. But it's clear that stories of "swoop and squat" are still circulating in the media. There was a Los Angeles Times report on the scheme in March 2006. I haven't personally seen any chain emails about the phenomonon, but I'll bet they exist—and that they make it out to be much more common than it is. So was McCain trying to make a reference to "swoop and squat"? I've asked his office. I'll update if I hear back. 

UPDATE: I was wrong. McCain was talking about something even more obscure. HuffPo:

In an email to the Huffington Post, Brooke Buchanan, a spokesperson for the Senator relayed that McCain "was referring to a story Pinal County Sheriff Babeu told" at a press conference on Monday.

In that story, Babeu said that there had been "numerous officers that have been killed by illegal immigrants in Arizona" and that "in just one patrol area, we've had 64 pursuits—failure to yield for an officer—in one month."

 More here.

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