Sent on 7/26/2018 7:41:43 AM
On July 23, border sheriffs from Arizona were in Washington DC to meet with political and policy leaders to discuss conditions on the U.S. – Mexico border. Present were Sheriff Mark Dannels of Cochise County Arizona President of the Arizona Sheriffs’ Association, Sheriff Leon Wilmot of Yuma County Arizona incoming President of the SW Border Sheriffs Association, Sheriff Mark Napier of Pima County Arizona member of Major County Sheriffs of America and Sheriff Jim Pond (ret) of the Western States Sheriffs Association. Sheriffs bring a frontline and community-based perspective to border issues, which is invaluable in advancing policy and practice in the address of the many challenges on our border. Sheriffs met with DHS Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen and her staff for a very productive discussion of what sheriffs need on the border. This is part of an ongoing dialogue started last month in Douglas, Arizona. Sheriffs also met with executive leadership from the Border Patrol, ICE, FEMA, Customs and Border Protection, DOJ, White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Domestic Policy Council. The sheriffs then went to Capitol Hill to meet with key senators, to include Senator Ron Johnson Chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. The day concluded with a working dinner hosted by Congresswoman Martha McSally Chair of the Border Security Committee. Arizona sheriffs made clear the need for additional security on our southern border. The lack of a secure border presents significant public safety challenges for our communities due to drug and human trafficking. Additionally, there is a significant human toll associated with this crisis. We recover hundreds of bodies a year in the deserts of our counties. Many migrants fall victim to bandits, coyotes and the environment and lose their life. This is a human rights tragedy. There is a clear need to bifurcate the discussion of illegal immigration from the address of transnational crime. Sheriffs are rightly concerned with the significant impact transnational criminal organizations have on safety in their communities. This should not get lost in the broader discussion of how to address illegal immigration, which is a federal problem. Sheriffs also made clear additional funding needs to come to border area sheriffs. Border counties are suffering a huge economic impact due to incarceration, prosecutorial and enforcement costs associated with having to address the lack of border security and associated criminality. Sheriffs are strategic partners in this fight. However, they must have the resources to maintain that partnership without excess burden to the taxpayers of their respective counties. As elected law enforcement leaders, sheriffs bring a community-based perspective to border issues. They can be instrumental in developing both better solutions to those issues and enhanced community support for efforts to address border crime. The Sheriffs are confident that the partnership and collaboration between our border law enforcement agencies and the Department of Homeland Security will continue and will result in more productive outcomes than could be unilaterally achieved. The relationship that has been fostered, and is currently in place, between border Sheriffs and federal government agencies is the best it has ever been. This is due to the willingness of the Department of Homeland Security to listen and provide an avenue for Sheriffs’ voices to be heard and the Sheriffs’ tenacious pursuit of having that voice in Washington DC. Border issues are not matters of political rhetoric or partisan banter for our sheriffs. They live with these issues in their backyard literally every day. If we address these issues in our backyard, they will not migrate to the detriment of public safety in the front yards of our entire nation.