By Terri Jo Neff |
While President Joe Biden continues to ignore pleas from Arizona’s sheriffs to take back control of the southern border, one top federal law enforcement official in Arizona is revealing the true nature of the border crisis, one social media posting at a time.
John R. Modlin is the Chief Patrol Agent of the U.S. Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector and its 3,600 employees assigned to cover Cochise, Pima, and Santa Cruz counties. His frequent use of Twitter features significant arrests and apprehensions by his agents, while also highlighting efforts by local USBP to keep local residents and the country safe.
On Tuesday, Modlin announced that agents with the USBP Brian A. Terry Station in Cochise County arrested Jesus Tafolla-Beana near Naco. Records show Tafolla-Beana, a Mexican citizen, was previously convicted in Utah of felony unlawful sexual activity with a minor and then deported. As a result, Tafolla-Beana was unlawfully in the United States when taken into custody.
Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels told AZ Free News that USBP’s arrest of Tafolia Beana illustrates the continued dangers of an unsecure border. It is a concern Dannels and other border sheriffs have spoken about since Biden took office, particularly after he nominated Alejandro Mayorkas to be Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“A secure border promotes safe communities and their quality of life,” Dannels said. “Border security shall never be discretionary, but a mandate by all elected officials, local, state and federal.”
Unfortunately, local and state law enforcement leaders have had little success getting the Biden Administration to engage in constructive discussions about the border or to even admit there is criminal activity occurring at the border. Modlin’s social media efforts are seen as a realistic, albeit small, glimpse of what is really happening.
“Beana is just another example of the aggravated criminals breaching our southern border,” Dannels said. “I applaud our Border Patrol agents for all they do in protecting our borders during a time where historical intrusions are challenging their efforts.”
Modlin’s disclosure about Tafolla-Beana’s arrest came about 24 hours after he shared a photograph of 166 undocumented migrants apprehended in a remote area west of Sasabe by agents with the USBP Three Points Station. More than 70 minors were in the group, Modlin noted.
Earlier this month, journalist Terence Jeffrey reported in The Daily Signal that from February to October of this year, 23 undocumented migrants with prior homicide convictions have been taken into custody in Arizona. The 23 have since been charged in U.S. District Court with the federal crime of illegally reentering the United States after deportation.
The uncontrolled border situation recently prompted the Western States Sheriffs’ Association to issue a statement of No Confidence in Mayorkas’ leadership.
The group, which represents sheriffs in 17 states, called on the President to take immediate steps to remove Mayorkas. The statement also noted there already has been more than one million illegal border crossings this year, with “hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants” who local authorities know were not intercepted by federal law enforcement at the border.
“After witnessing this disaster over the past several months and listening to the continued rhetoric and intellectual dishonesty from Secretary Mayorkas, the Western States Sheriffs’ Association and its membership must emphatically state our position of having NO confidence in the ability of Secretary Mayorkas, and his leadership within the Department of Homeland Security, to affect any positive outcome on this matter,” the statement reads.
By Terri Jo Neff |
When a longtime resident sued the Town of Gilbert, its mayor, and six councilmembers last week, the public was provided an in-depth look at efforts taken to silence an opponent of a bond measure that tops out at more than one-half billion dollars.
Jim Torgeson, who owns Mesa Sign Shop, undertook an individual effort to post signs around town advocating against the town’s effort to raise $515 million via general obligation bonds to fund various capital improvements. Many of his signs were removed by town officials in the days leading up to voting after Torgeson was accused of violating state law.
Torgeson is asking Judge Jay Adlerman of the Maricopa County Superior Court to declare that town officials, acting individually, collectively, and on behalf of the municipality, violated Torgeson’s free speech rights, broke state law, and engaged in election misconduct to such an extent that the Nov. 2 bond election results must be annulled.
“To be sure, annulling an election is a radical remedy, but the law supports it here,” Torgeson’s Nov. 22 lawsuit states. “The bottom line is that the right to vote, the elective franchise, means little if the government is allowed to stamp out speech that advocates opposing views. It is the uniquely bad acts of the Town of Gilbert that has forced the need for the drastic judicial action that is requested.”
Due to questions about whether the bond election was tainted, Gilbert councilmembers Laurin Hendrix and Aimee Yentes voted against approving the canvass of votes. Until the matter can be fully litigated, Torgeson wants Adlerman to issue an injunction barring town employees, elected officials, and other agents from taking any steps to move toward having bonds issued.
Adlerman has scheduled a Dec. 8 hearing on Torgeson’s requests. As of press time, Gilbert officials had not filed a formal answer to the lawsuit.
Voting in Gilbert’s recent town election was by mail only. Officials reported that the bond question passed by only a 164-vote margin out of nearly 41,400 votes cast. (Another 917 voters took part in the town election but did not cast a vote on the bond issue.)
The lawsuit notes Mayor Brigette Peterson and four councilmembers—Scott Anderson, Yung Koprowski, Scott September, and Kathy Tilque—publicly supported a “Yes” vote. Koprowski and Tilque even served as co-chairs of a pro-Bond political action committee (PAC) called Yes for Safe and Efficient Gilbert Roads which raised nearly $55,000 despite no organized bond opposition.
Town Attorney Chris Payne is working with privately retained legal counsel to respond to Torgeson’s lawsuit. In the meantime, a statement issued last week on behalf of the Town of Gilbert takes issues with the legal and factual assertions contained in the lawsuit. Officials are “confident that the election results will be upheld,” according to the town’s statement.
Torgeson moved to Gilbert in 2008 and has been active in town affairs much of that time. He ran for council in November 2016, receiving 24.55 percent of the vote (he needed 26.01 percent to get a seat).
Peterson has been criticized by Torgeson in the past for her ethics and leadership of Gilbert, which is Arizona’s fifth-most populous municipality with nearly 250,000 residents. The town’s decision in June to seek voter approval of the bond question caught the attention of Torgeson, who supported a smaller, more manageable bond limit.
His anti-bond signs started going up around Gilbert in mid-September, just two weeks before ballots were scheduled to be mailed out. In place of his name, Torgeson printed “Private Citizen” on the signs next to his phone number, which he intended to have up at 100 high-visibility areas.
But town officials alleged Torgeson’s signs violated the law due to the absence of his name. As a result, 57 “non-conforming” signs were removed from town right of ways and later given back to Torgeson.
At the time, Torgeson’s attorney Timothy La Sota shot back at the town’s position, noting the Arizona Revised Statute about names on political signs cited by town officials only requires a name of a candidate “or campaign committee contact person.” Neither applied to Torgeson’s effort, La Sota noted.
“In this instance, there was no ‘candidate’, nor was there a ‘campaign committee contact person’ that was required to be listed under [ARS 16-1019] section (C)(5),” according to Torgeson’s statement of election contest. “As it was, Torgeson did include a valid telephone number on the signs, and there was no valid reason to move his signs or even contact him at all with regard to his signs.”
A few days after La Sota got involved, Gilbert officials responded with “an unconditional and complete reversal,” according to the lawsuit, although the town’s attorneys disputed Torgeson’s claim of violations of any U.S. and Arizona laws.
A subsequent public records request by Torgeson led to the discovery of an email from a town administrator to several other Gilbert employees about the possibility of having employees work overtime on Friday or the weekend to hurriedly remove Torgeson’s signs. (Town offices are open Monday through Thursday only.)
At one point, 15 employees or elected Gilbert officials “had some level of involvement in the effort to get rid of Torgeson’s signs,” the lawsuit states.
Torgeson adds that ARS 16-1019 was passed by the Arizona Legislature “to protect those engaged in free speech from overzealous regulatory efforts by municipalities, efforts that history has shown have not been applied evenly, and application has varied depending on the message conveyed in the sign.”
The lawsuit also alleges Gilbert officials distributed an improperly written informational pamphlet about the bond election. Such pamphlets are allowed by state law but must present “factual information in a neutral manner.”
According to the lawsuit, the pamphlet was written by the town not as “a presenter of neutral and factual information” but as an advocate promoting a “Yes” vote by describing bond approval as necessary to ensure Gilbert’s “quality of life for its residents” and the town’s “long-term sustainability.”
The result, Torgeson alleges, was voter disenfranchisement due to the town “putting its thumb on the scale.”
By Terri Jo Neff |
With the National Retail Federation estimating that 2 million more people will do holiday shopping between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday, Arizona’s leading small-business association is reminding shoppers of the upside to reserving some of that money for Small Business Saturday on Nov. 27.
Started by American Express as a post-Thanksgiving, pre-Cyber Monday marketing gimmick in 2010, Small Business Saturday is now officially co-sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration. In 2019, Small Business Saturday shoppers at “mom and pop” type independent retailers and restaurants spent nearly $19.6 billion, which was topped last November at $19.8 billion despite ongoing pandemic challenges.
Michigan State University’s Center for Community and Economic Development has reported that of $100 spent at a locally owned business, $73 remained in the local economy in the form of higher wages, re-spending, and an improved tax base.
“Dollars spent at small, locally owned businesses are not sent to some out-of-state corporate parent,” said Chad Heinrich, Arizona state director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). “Those dollars stay local and support the community.”
Earlier this month NFIB released the latest findings of its special COVID-19 polls showing 62 percent of small-business owners say their supply-chain disruptions are worse than three months ago. And 90 percent of respondents expect the problem to continue for the next five months, if not longer.
Equally troubling, according to Heinrich, is that NFIB’s Small Business Economic Trends report found the percentage of small-business owners expecting better business conditions in the coming months has fallen to its lowest level since November 2012.
That is why getting a large share of the nation’s estimated 158.3 million holiday shoppers to shop local small businesses is important, especially in Arizona where so many businesses continue to struggle post-pandemic.
“Shopping at small businesses helps the Arizona economy,” said Heinrich. “This is a tough time for our mom-and-pop businesses. If Arizonans focus on shopping local, this could be a jolly holiday season for all.”
According to American Express, last year’s Small Business Saturday exceeded expectations despite the pandemic due to small businesses pivoting to online sales and utilizing non-traditional advertising such as social media to stay connected with customers.
“In addition, small business owners rolled out a variety of giveaways and special offerings to consumers, a smart strategy as 43% of consumers reported that they took advantage of special offers or promotions from small businesses on the day,” AMEX reports.
By Terri Jo Neff |
A partisan effort to make it harder for fossil fuel-based energy companies to obtain bank financing and banking services prompted a warning letter to the U.S. banking industry on Nov. 22 from the top financial officers of several states, including Arizona.
“Denying banking services to traditional, reliable energy production industries simply to advance radical, socialist policies from the White House, is both immoral and goes against the very free market principles that our country was founded upon,” said Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee in announcing the letter. “In this case, they are picking the energy industry as the losers and that goes against the free marketplace in America.”
Yee joined the financial officers of Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming in signing the letter, cautioning the banking industry of potential consequences for allowing itself to be used as a political pawn against law-abiding companies in the coal, oil, and natural gas industries.
According to the letter, the Biden Administration is “pressuring U.S. banks and financial institutions to limit, encumber, or outright refuse financing for traditional energy production companies.” The White House is also supporting an end to American financial support for traditional energy production projects in developing countries around the world, “likely ceding future development and exploration to Chinese interests,” the letter states.
“We believe, as almost all Americans do, that the free market should remain free and not be manipulated to advance social agendas,” the letter states. “We are not asking for special treatment of the fossil fuel industries. To the contrary, we simply want financial institutions to assess fossil fuel businesses as other legal businesses – without prejudice or preference.”
The letter also says the states have a compelling government interest “to select financial institutions that are not engaged in tactics to harm the very people whose money they are handling.”
Each state will undertake its own actions to counter the “undue pressure” being placed on the banking industry, according to the letter. Yee has not outlined what steps her office might take if financial institutions which do business with the state engage in efforts to deny services to the energy industry.
By Terri Jo Neff |
Yet another business advocacy group is challenging President Joe Biden’s continued calls for employers to implement COVID-19 vaccination mandates in the face of constitutional challenges.
“This mandate is not a small ask of America’s employers. Businesses are just recovering from the pandemic. They are dealing with the highest inflation in over 30 years, and they are struggling to deal with a supply chain and labor shortage crisis,” Alfredo Ortiz of the Job Creators Network wrote to Biden. “Now is the worst time to deputize them as the health police.”
The Job Creators Network is a petitioner in one of the federal court challenges to OSHA’s vaccination mandate for employers with 100 or more employees. That case and others federal challenges to Biden’s mandates are being transferred by order of the U.S. Supreme Court to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit so all such cases can be heard in one court.
Such lawsuits should not be necessary, Ortiz argues, but even more concerning is the fact White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki publicly stated last week that “nothing has changed” with the mandate timelines in the face of recent court orders.
The result, according to Ortiz, is that the Biden Administration is putting small business job creators in an “untenable position” of following the White House directives or following the court rulings.
“Despite two recent federal court rulings staying the employer vaccine mandate, the White House continues to willfully ignore the judiciary and call on businesses to continue implementing the rule by January 4, 2022, as if these judicial decisions never occurred,” Ortiz wrote to Biden. “We expect the White House to respect and listen to the judiciary rather than barnstorming ahead and bullying businesses to comply with this rule whose legal fate is in serious jeopardy.”
Small business owners in every community across America are caught in the middle and paying the price, Ortiz wrote.
“This conflicting guidance is unfair to small businesses simply trying to get their businesses back to pre-pandemic levels,” he said. “By following the White House guidance, they are incurring expenses and time-consuming setup costs.”