by Jobe Dickinson
As a former law enforcement officer from Southern Arizona, I have seen first-hand the direct impact failed border policies have on local communities and police departments.
I served the Tucson community for nearly 20 years and have seen increased dependency on local law enforcement resources and community services because of the growing number of foreign nationals illegally or legally entering the U.S. making asylum claims. As a police sergeant, my officers would routinely respond to theft, assault, and disturbance calls at a Non-Governmental Organization temporarily housing foreign nationals. We would also receive welfare calls about individuals processed out of Border Patrol who after they received Notice to Appear documents for immigration court were released into local communities with nowhere to go. These time-consuming calls added to the already overworked and understaffed department.
Due to lack of federal resources and policy changes made by the Biden administration, Border Patrol agents have been pulled away from the line of defense where they would normally be interdicting cartel operatives and smugglers, to instead process foreign nationals. As a result, local police agencies are engaging in more drug interdiction cases on top of their normal caseload.
In December, while conducting a traffic stop, a Cochise County Sheriff’s Office deputy pulled over a driver for a civil traffic violation. Unbeknownst to the deputy, the driver was smuggling foreign nationals and fentanyl, both of which came into Arizona illegally through the southern border. The driver also resisted arrest, engaged in an altercation that led to them wrestling on the highway pavement. A passing vehicle almost struck the deputy and hit and killed the suspect. Now an investigation in underway, and the case must be presented to the county attorney to clear the deputy of any wrongdoing.
During the months long investigation, the deputy will remain on administrative duties until cleared and recovered. Many man hours are lost that could have been used for local community issues. Had the smuggler been stopped at the border, this incident would have never happened.
Arizona law enforcement officers are facing even more potential challenges as newly inaugurated Gov. Katie Hobbs has announced her plan to eliminate state funding and staff resources dedicated to fighting criminal networks at the border. In 2015, former Gov. Doug Ducey established the Border Strike Force, a unit within the Department of Public Safety to interdict criminal activity at the border. Along with additional manpower, the state provided $12 million per year toward this effort.
The creation of this unit was not lip service; it provided meaningful resources for our overwhelmed law enforcement agencies and produced results. Since 2015, 13,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 900 pounds of fentanyl, and 1,000 firearms have been seized by the Border Strike Force. Their efforts helped save Arizonan lives.
Gov. Ducey took this action because Border Patrol agents in Arizona asked for his help, recognizing that law enforcement agencies needed more collaboration to target transnational criminal organizations.
Given the lack of leadership coming out of Washington, D.C., on anything border related, we cannot afford to lose an asset that helps reduce the flow of drugs and criminal activity across the Southern Border.
Defunding our law enforcement efforts and inaction in Washington, D.C., is welcomed by Mexican narco-terrorist cartel operatives and criminals; their success is dependent on spreading our local law enforcement and emergency personnel resources thin, thus enabling them to expand their illegal smuggling efforts.
These are extremely dangerous cartels with military grade weapons, ammunition and equipment, which is why Texas Gov. Greg Abbott designated them as foreign terrorist organizations. They capitalize off of chaos, which hurts Arizona residents and law enforcement officers who’ve sworn to protect them.
The time for sitting in meeting rooms and talking about the problem is over. It’s time for action and there are simple short-term solutions that can be implemented today: 1) complete and maintain portions of the wall that help Border Patrol agents secure the border by better controlling the flow of people, drugs, weapons and other contraband; and 2) continue funding local police and sheriff’s departments, and the Border Strike Force with state and federal monies to enable them to assist Border Patrol with criminal interdiction.
Long-term, Congress must first prioritize border security. Once the U.S. southern border is secure, Congress can address commonsense immigration reform.
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Jobe Dickinson is the President of the Border Security Alliance, an organization comprised of former border patrol and law enforcement officers who are advocating for public policies to secure America’s borders, support border patrol and law enforcement, combat human trafficking, drug smuggling, illicit tobacco trade, and protect local communities. This commentary first appeared at The Center Square.
Photo “Migrants” by Cochise County Sheriff’s Office – Mark J. Dannels Sheriff.