Let’s take a break for a moment from the left-wing knee-jerk reaction to this weekend’s horrific act of violence and concentrate on something that flew somewhat under the radar as a result of the same. On July 19th, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano spoke before the House Judiciary Committee on the topic of prosecutorial discretion in regards to the immigration and border control issue. In other words, that the administration can pick and choose who to prosecute for being here illegally, just as the president did when he announced that illegal immigrants under the age of 30 would not be deported.
Napolitano has famously stated that “there is a perception that the border is worse now than it ever has been. That is wrong. The border is better now than it ever has been.” In the same breath, she and other leaders, made it clear that “The perception that violent crime in Mexico is spilling across the border is false.” Coming from the woman who as governor once “invoiced” the federal government for the resources it took her state to protect its citizens against a porous border, this comment seems hypocritical at best.
Those of us in the blogosphere, on the news, or in print can pontificate all day long on this topic from the comfort of our homes or our offices. Realistically, however- we can only regurgitate information from others in the news who are more than likely regurgitating information themselves.
Why not go straight to the source?
I had the distinct honor of speaking with Sheriff Larry Dever of Cochise County in the Tucson sector of Arizona just shortly after the Supreme Court ruling on S.B. 1070, the “controversial” immigration law which eventually resulted in a lawsuit levied against the state by the Department of Justice.
I’ll keep my part short and sweet. After all- it’s straight from the horse’s mouth that matters:
Many of those of us in non-border states just don’t understand the state of affairs in your area. Can you go into some detail of what you’ve seen along the border? What sort of crimes have you seen taking place?
First, the fact that states like Alabama, South Carolina, Indiana, Utah and others are passing laws similar to SB 1070 is an indication that they are beginning to understand; that is, that they have problems associated with the unfettered and unmitigated cross border trafficking that is going up into their communities, so this is not just a “border” situation.
Where I am on the border is a major gateway for illegal immigration, drug smuggling, and any and everything else that people want to bring into this country unlawfully, and that’s been the case for a long, long time. Half of the illegal aliens who are caught trying to come into this country are caught in this little corridor down here.
Most of our crime, though, is not associated with northbound movement. When we talk about crimes, we generally see trespassing, cut fences, gates that are left open, cattle strayed all over, water sources that are contaminated and damaged. Most criminal activity beyond that is southbound. When smugglers deliver their goods and then head back south, they’ll hit a house, take highly transportable items like firearms, jewelry, cash, and anything they can stick in their pockets. This keeps up as they go back and forth all the time. We have had people kidnapped here; we have had people tied up; we’ve had people’s cars stolen; we’ve had much of what you’d see with this kind of cross-border trafficking.
How frequently are the calls that your officers receive related to this southbound traffic?
We get calls for this every day. In addition to that, we also have a situation with fires started by in which they’ll start fires for warmth, for signals; sometimes they’ll even start fires to keep the pursuing agents off their backs. When a fire starts, everybody responds to that. The catastrophic fallout from all that is huge in terms of the environment, houses, property, and businesses that are damaged in the onslaught of that.
I was once told that the Mexican government was at one point handing out maps of the American Southwest, and that these maps contained directions to sanctuary cities, water sites, etc. Have you ever found anything like this on anyone you’ve apprehended?
Yes, Absolutely. We find them laying out in the desert, we find them on people; that’s absolutely something that has occurred. Who has published that; whether it was the government or some government agency associated with the Mexican government or not is unclear, but those documents do exist.
I’ve heard that law enforcement in Arizona has had to explain to the citizens that there are certain portions of the border that said citizens must enter at their own risk; that is, that due to the escalated violence in the area, law enforcement won’t respond past a certain point. Is that true? Are there certain portions of the border that are just no longer controllable?
Not on my part. We’ll go anywhere and do anything. However, Border Control agents have been instructed not to work in certain areas because of its danger levels. Upper management denies that, but the guys on the ground will tell you it is absolutely true. For my deputies and I, we know no such places. We’ll go do whatever it takes. Is it dangerous? Absolutely, but it’s what you sign up for.
Are you seeing spillover from the cartel violence? Are you seeing evidence of the major cartels and the violence from their territory battles?
People talk about “spillover violence” and they talk about “just across the border.” “Spillover violence” occurs in Minnesota, Ohio, Utah, Colorado, Washington State, and in communities all across the nation. People have it in their heads that the problem begins and ends here at the border, and it does not. The tentacles of these cartels reach into communities everywhere in the U.S.A. If somebody were able to take the time to assemble that data of the crimes, damage, death, injuries that occur across the nation, it would be huge; it would actually make 9/11 pale in comparison.
Right now the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel are really the ones that are at war in Mexico, and yes we do see “spillover” violence. It’s right at our doorstep. What we also see is a lot of people moving into this country to escape that violence. Realistically it’s just not something you can define in a short conversation; it’s a whole lot bigger than people want to make it be. In particular, Janet Napolitano, Eric Holder, and President Obama downplay this, minimize this, and suggest that things are better than they used to be even though the border area and the communities in our nation are in more peril than they have ever been.
Have you seen evidence of Middle Eastern activity; specifically Hezbollah and Al Qaeda, taking advantage of the chaos to get their people across the border?
Yes, we have had people find prayer rugs, Korans, and other evidence of this left behind on their properties. In fact, not too long ago we apprehended a group of 11 individuals from Lebanon.
In 2005, I participated in a focus group at the National Counterterrorism Center in Virginia, and the question at hand was this: Would Mexican drug cartels help facilitate the movement of terrorists, chemicals, etc.? Their conclusion was that no, they wouldn’t, out of fear of retribution for an terror event that could be tied back to Mexico. I told them they were wrong- after all, if you look at all the carnage going on in Mexico right now, they’re [the cartels] not afraid of anything. Secondly these people are profiteers. They are pirates. They are interested in one thing- money. If you pay the price, they’ll move anything you want them to move.
As it was originally proposed before the DOJ lawsuit and the Supreme Court, what would SB 1070 do for you and your department?
Where I am, and what I’ve done for the last 36 years, when we encounter illegal aliens, we turn them over to border patrol. We’ve been doing that forever. We still have that advantage here along the border with the border patrol presence; however, when you get north of the border, you don’t have that asset available. Now, I’ve said all along that SB 1070 or any other bill whether it passes or not won’t make a difference in our enforcement efforts here along the border. We’ll continue to do what we’ve done. What WILL make a difference is that it will discourage and eliminate sanctuary policies north of us not only in Arizona but elsewhere in the country. As long as you have de facto sanctuary policies or open sanctuary policies, that will encourage people to continue to come into this country (and most of them come through us). The successful implementation of SB 1070 and similar bills throughout the country will reduce the pressure here on the border. It will make a big difference.
What was the “big deal” with SB 1070? Why did cries of racism and discrimination instantly ensue from the ACLU and the President, even though the bill didn’t propose much more than what you are doing now?
The only law in Arizona in criminal statutes (title 13) that specifically prohibits racial profiling was this one. There is no other law in the state that says you can’t profile people. We don’t do that anyway. We never have, and this law does not open its arms to that kind of approach or attitude. In fact it specifically prohibits it. What’s interesting is that in the DOJ in all of its arguments never raised that issue. The only people that raised it were the ACLU, MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund), Southern Poverty Law Center and similar liberal groups. I was in the Supreme Court when oral arguments were being heard, and Chief Justice Roberts specifically made it a point to ask the Solicitor General whether or not this was about racial profiling, and he answered “No Sir, it is not.”
I was appalled when I heard the President said the following: “You can imagine if you are a Hispanic American in Arizona, your great grandparents might have been there before Arizona was even a state, but now suddenly if you don’t have your papers and you took your kid out to get ice cream you’re going to be harassed – that’s something that could potentially happen. That’s not the right way to go.” What is your reaction to that?
It was a huge insult. I’ve been in this business for 36 years, and yes, I’ve run into some bad apples. There are some people who abuse their authority and step over the line. They are disciplined, fired, processed out. We police ourselves. For the most part, it’s just not the order of the day. We act, react, and respond professionally. That suggestion [of racism] is really a slap in the face to the professionalism of the men and women who work in this business that I know. We don’t racially profile; we profile along criminal lines. It just so happens where I am with all the trafficking coming across the border from Mexico, most of the people we encounter are Mexicans. I don’t apologize for that. I’ll also point out that “Mexican” is not a race, it is a nationality. This has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with the bad things a person is doing.
In reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision, the Federal government decided to discontinue the 287g program. What does that mean for you?
The 287g program is a partnership between ICE and law enforcement. There’s specific training that local law enforcement undergoes under the umbrella and the supervision of ICE (DHS-Department of Homeland Security) that they can then enforce immigration law both on the street and in the jail. I don’t have that agreement, and I haven’t entered into one of those agreements, and I’m not going to work for the federal government. That’s not in my interest; I’m not going to be beholden to them. Again, I’m here on the border so I have the ability to turn people over to border patrol or just take them to the border. When you get farther north, you don’t have that. Clearly, the letter that rescinded the 287g agreement in Arizona was written in preparation and anticipation that the Supreme Court would rule the way it did. That memo went out moments after the Supreme Court ruling. It was something planned.
The other troublesome issue is a threat to a program called Secure Communities that was rolled out under the Bush Administration and has been continued under the Obama administration. It integrates the ICE database with the National Criminal Database. When I book someone into my jail, if they don’t have ID but they’ve had contact with ICE (fingerprints, biodata, etc.), I can immediately cross check that information with those databases. People don’t fall through the cracks that way. What is next on the chopping block is that system, as the ACLU has just challenged it as too “invasive.” It is clearly retribution for states passing laws like Arizona, and like Alabama, South Carolina and others. It’s a slap in the Supreme Court’s face as well- as it makes clear the sentiment that “we don’t care what your rulings are, this is our policy” I’ve had 2 discussions with Tomas Perez who is the head of the Civil Rights division for the DOJ, and I’ve told him what I’m saying now. They don’t care about the law, they care about their policies; their priorities, and what they want to do.
When the 287g discontinuance memo was sent out, what was the reasoning you were given?
We don’t have that program, but the reasoning they gave to Pinal County, was that the program was “non-productive.” The thing is, there’s no metric; this is not a “numbers-based” program. It was just clearly retaliation. This was nothing more than Chicago style political thuggery.
A few final thoughts. . .
The other thing we’ve been hearing is “what do we do with the 10 to 12 million people here illegally in this country?” We’ve heard this number remain static for the last 16 years. When I sit down here on this border and I see tens of thousands of people come across, how does that number remain static? How is it that there are 10-12 million people living illegally here in this country when at least a million come in every year? They do not self-deport. Another thing-the metric we used to use in determining whether or not we were being successful with our efforts on the border in terms of the drug smuggling was the price on the street. That has not changed in spite of all the seizures. It hasn’t changed. We are not being successful. To say for 16 years that the same number of illegal aliens is a disservice and a fraud perpetrated on the American public.
President Obama came out recently and announced that the U.S. would no longer be deporting illegal aliens of a certain age group. They haven’t been deporting that group anyway! It hasn’t been done. How can one quit doing something that isn’t being done? Furthermore, there is no reasonable way to determine if a person came here three days ago, or was brought here 20 years ago by a parent.
We keep hearing the words “comprehensive immigration reform.” We do not need comprehensive immigration reform. We need comprehensive immigration enforcement. We don’t have that; there’s no intention on this administration’s part to do it. We don’t need new laws, we need to enforce the ones we have.
The people I know who have gone through the immigration process the legal way are some of the most angry with this whole situation. There are over 200 different kinds of visas in this system. If we need immigration reform at all, we need immigration process reform. It’s extremely slow and arduous. For people who want to come here, work, and become citizens, why can’t we just get it done? I lived in Central America for several years, and I know why so many want to make a better life for themselves here. Let’s make it happen, but let’s make it happen through the legal process. We need to clean up the process we already have.
Sheriff Dever is a native Cochise County resident, born and raised in the town of St. David, AZ where he currently resides. He and his wife, Nancy, a retired Special Educational Administrator and Educational Consultant, are proud parents of six fine sons. The oldest serves as a Major in the US Army, three work for AZ law enforcement agencies, one as a Firefighter, and one attending college. They also have five wonderful daughter-in-laws and eleven grandchildren.
Sheriff Dever is a 34-year Cochise County law enforcement veteran. He was elected to his first term as Sheriff in 1996, following a distinguished 20-year career working in the trenches of Cochise County law enforcement. Entering the profession as a deputy in 1976, Sheriff Dever rose through the ranks from sergeant to major before successfully seeking political office and being re-elected to a forth term in the year 2008. (Courtesy of www.cochise.az.gov)