As one of four border counties in Arizona, we are a bridge between the United States and Mexico. Nogales Arizona and Nogales Sonora are interconnected through business and trade, family life, and a shared history. Mexico is our nation’s largest trading partner. Maintaining an efficient system for legal border traffic is essential to the livelihood of county residents and an asset for the nation’s economy. While federal agencies have jurisdiction over border crossings and immigration, the Sheriff’s Office has a role to play when it comes to border issues. Let me make four points about this.
First, Santa Cruz County is a safe place to live and visit. We do not have a crime problem from illegal immigration. Our crime rate is somewhat higher than the national average but this is not due to illegal border crossings.
Second, we should continue to be concerned about drug smuggling and human trafficking coming through our county. Those who transport or stage illegal drugs in our county are violating both state and federal law. Human trafficking and sex trafficking are also violations of both state and federal law and are serious crimes causing great suffering for victims.
Third, with regard to illegal crossers, the Sheriff’s Office is equipped to assist those who need medical attention or are victims of crime as they make their dangerous journey.
Fourth, when deputy sheriffs come into contact with a person who is undocumented, they should follow the law which is that detaining these individuals for federal authorities is not warranted in the case of minor violations such as traffic offenses.
LET'S BUILD BRIDGES, NOT WALLS!
We can do better when it comes to collaboration across law enforcement agencies in this region. As your Sheriff, I want to strengthen our partnerships with federal and state law enforcement agencies. I would like the Sheriff’s Office to be part of a multi-agency task force that includes Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and other law enforcement agencies in the region. Better communication among agencies and joint operations across agencies will lead to better law enforcement and humanitarian assistance.
I have a lot of experience dealing directly with border county law enforcement issues. When I was a deputy sheriff, I was instrumental in starting a program called STOP (Special Tactical Operations Patrol) that focused on border-related crime and the needs of persons in danger from border-related criminal activity.
The eyes of the nation are focused on our southern border. As a border county, we have a duty to both enforce the law and treat all people in a lawful and respectful manner.