A bipartisan group of lawmakers visited Cochise County, with stops at the Douglas port of entry and at the sheriff’s office in Bisbee.
Senator Krysten Sinema and U.S. House of Representative Juan Ciscomani hosted three other Congress members on this visit. They represented North Carolina, Texas and California.
The group started their day in Douglas at the port of entry where they met U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and discussed the needs of the current port and the new commercial port that’s being built. Ciscomani said that even though he visits the area frequently, he always learns something new including what resources are needed.
The mayors of Sierra Vista and Douglas, the Sierra Vista Police Chief, the County Attorney, Cochise College and Board Supervisor Ann English joined the Congress members and Sheriff Dannels for the round table. The conversation focused on the needs the county would like from the federal government to help with the border security issues the county is see and the work being done by local law enforcement to help keep the community safe.
Its a challenge down here on the border,” Dannels said. “We feel abandoned. Were a blunt of the problem right now and were absorbing it and we get very little support.
He said last year they put more than 1,500 people in jail because of border-related crimes, with the overwhelming majority being people coming from outside of the county to commit acts of smuggling. Dannels credited County Attorney Brian McIntyre and his office for keeping up with all of the cases and charging individuals.
Sierra Vista Police Chief Adam Thrasher told the group there have been 39 pursuits in the last year because people are fleeing instead of yielding to police. He and Dannels agree that the willingness to flee at excessive speeds instead of the pullover is what makes the problem the county has different than what other border towns are seeing.
What were seeing in Cochise County is a border security crisis,” Sinema said. “In order to solve it we must also address the cracks in the legal system that need to be addressed so the cartels cant use a multi-pronged strategy to keep us away from doing the border security.
The latter half of the conversation pertained to what the cartels are doing to aid illegal border crossing. Many of the people in the room said that border patrol doesn’t currently have enough staff to fully monitor and the cartels know where the gaps are.
Right now the United States government is not choosing who enters this country. The cartels are choosing that,” Sinema said. “Thats dangerous.
She invited the mayors to Washington D.C. to help “teach” her colleagues about what the cartels are doing and how it’s impacting all of the communities in Cochise County.
Sinema praised the group for the collaboration efforts between all of the local law enforcement agencies and federal entities. She requested data from the sheriff’s department about their SABER program and what they are doing to share with others to show the success the county is having as well as to see if other communities could benefit from a similar program.
Ciscomani said he is going to use his position on the appropriations committee to ask questions and find funding for the port of entry and other border projects.
I sit on appropriations and the funding for these ports of entry comes from the sub-committee I serve on in appropriations so Im going back with a long list of questions to ask the federal government on this, he said.