Dannels Expresses Frustration During Border Testimony to Congressional Committee

Dannels Expresses Frustration During Border Testimony to Congressional Committee

By Terri Jo Neff |

Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels was asked to address the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary last week about the southwest border crisis, and he did not waste the opportunity, expressing frustration with how the Biden administration is avoiding the situation.

“Our southern border, against all public comfort statements out of Washington, D.C., is in the worst shape I have ever seen it,” Dannels testified. “When one looks at Public Safety, National Security, and Humanitarian, our southern border is the largest crime scene in the country.”

Dannels, who is the immediate past-president of the Arizona Sheriffs Association and chair of the National Sheriffs Association Border Security, told Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan and the committee he has personally experienced “the good, the bad, and the ugly” while working in border communities for nearly 40 years.  

The sheriff acknowledged there “has always” been some border-related crimes such as illicit drugs, human smuggling, and weapons trafficking by Cartels. But prior to President Joe Biden taking office in January 2021, Cochise County was “one on the safest border counties” thanks to a cooperative effort that included enforcing the law, Dannels explained. 

But Dannels told the Congressional committee he and other sheriffs have had “little to no success” in trying to partner with the White House to address the growing crisis caused by Biden’s open border policies the last two years.

As a result, the “intellectual avoidance” of border issues by Biden is being exploited by the Cartels to support their reign of “violence, fear, and greed,” Dannels said.

“Violence against innocent citizens, public officials, law enforcement, and rival drug / human trafficking groups in Mexico continues to escalate,” Dannels testified, adding it has left communities in Cochise County feeling “neglected and abandoned.”

Cochise County typically does not experience the type of mass self-surrenders seen in Yuma and some border crossings in Texas. Instead, the county’s 80 miles of international border are preferred by what Dannels called “Fight & Flight” crossers, many of whom are convicted criminals who go to great lengths to avoid detection.

This has now resulted in an all-time high of border crimes in the county, Dannels testified. And it is not just property crimes the sheriff was referring to – he pointed to a significant uptick in aggravated assaults, injury traffic accidents, and homicides directly related to Cartels exploiting the border.  

According to Dannels, Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating in Cochise County “are highly sophisticated and innovative in their transportation methods” and utilize “sophisticated and technical communications and counter surveillance equipment to counter law enforcements interdiction tactics and strategies.”

It raises the question, the sheriff noted, of who actually controls our borders.

“By allowing our border security mission and immigration laws to be discretionary, these Criminal Cartels continue to be the true winners,” Dannels testified, adding that the continuance of deaths and hardships as Congress and the Biden administration “intentionally avoids reality is gross negligence.”

Dannels provided the House Judiciary Committee with several suggestions for how the federal government could quickly secure the border and address the violence.

“One would hope the priority of securing our border doesn’t become just about a price tag and/or political posturing, but rather the legal and moral requirement to safeguard all of America, which so many heroic Americans have already paid the ultimate price for,” Dannels said.

Dannels reiterated his frustration later in the week during an interview with KFYI’s James T. Harris.

“We have a border that is out of control,” Dannels told Harris, adding that his pleas did not appear to resonate with many of those in power in the Beltway because “it’s not in their Washington, D.C. backyard.”


Terri Jo Neff is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or send her news tips here.

Failure Of White House To Define Land And Water Conservation Goals Prompts Concerns, Questions

Failure Of White House To Define Land And Water Conservation Goals Prompts Concerns, Questions

By Terri Jo Neff |

One week after his inauguration, President Joe Biden issued Executive Order 14008 pausing new oil and gas leases on public lands. But perhaps the best known provision of the executive order was the goal of ensuring at least 30 percent of all federal land and coastal waterways are conserved by 2030.

The purpose, according to Biden, is to address climate change, protect biodiversity, and create equitable access to nature.

At the time of Biden’s announcement, about 12 percent of land across America was under sufficient oversight to be considered conserved, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey. To meet the 30 percent goal would require conservation of about 440,000,000 additional acres.

By comparison, the State of Texas comes in at 171,057,000 acres. 

The fact that the federal government already controls roughly 640,000,000 acres would seem to go a long way toward achieving the 30 by 30 goal, now better known as the America the Beautiful Initiative. However, nearly one-third of those acres are not conserved in a way that would likely comply with the unfinalized standards of the initiative.

Back in March, more than 60 members of the Congressional Western Caucus, sent Biden a letter expressing concerns with 30 by 30. The letter noted that with more than 90 percent of federally-managed lands lying west of the Mississippi, their constituents are concerned Western states will be disproportionately impacted by policies utilized to achieve the 30 by 30 goals.

“Stewardship of our lands is embedded in our Western values. Sustainable, healthy land is the lifeblood of our rural communities and our outdoor heritage and rural economies thrive when our lands are properly managed,” the letter stated. “However, the 30 by 30 initiative displays a dangerous thoughtlessness and far too many of our questions have been left unanswered.”

Yet seven months after that letter, very little is known as to how the Biden Administration intends to meet those goals. And that prompted an Oct. 12 letter to the President from Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels on behalf of the Arizona Sheriffs Association.  

“As in the past, we have concerns including proposals such as these lacking specific measures, imposing unnecessary land use restrictions, and limiting economic opportunities that have existed for decades on these very lands,” Dannels wrote, also noting that federal officials were using the term “federally managed lands” instead of “public lands” in 30 x 30 documents.  

But while Arizona’s sheriffs encouraged collaboration with state agencies and local governments to address climate change and drought impacts within the Western States, the letter cautioned that federal officials “should avoid imposing unilateral authority to further limit uses and impose increased land use restrictions on federal lands in the West that have been extremely divisive and controversial.”

Similar letters were sent to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Sen. Mark Kelly.  A spokeswoman for the Arizona Sheriffs Association said no responses were received in the last month.

Some 30 by 30 documents mention the need for incentivizing voluntary stewardship efforts on private lands and by supporting the efforts and visions of States and Tribal Nations. The fact that privately owned lands are home to nearly two-third of all species on the U.S. Endangered Species list also has landowners in the western United States concerned about preservation of property rights.

“Traditional mechanisms of land protection like permanent acquisition, easement or federal designation will rightfully play a role in achieving 30 by 30,” the Western Landowners Alliance noted in a recent statement. “At the same time, over-reliance on these tools, or an insistence that these mechanisms are the only way to protect land fails to recognize the contributions to conservation of those already on the land.”

Deb Haaland, as U.S. Secretary of Interior, was tasked to coordinate with the Secretarys of Agriculture and Commerce along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and White House Council on Environmental Quality to propose guidelines for determining what lands and waters qualify for conservation.

The America the Beautiful Interagency Working Group, as it is known, is also responsible for providing an annual progress report to the White House as well as ensuring federal dollars get distributed toward conservation programs.

The working group came under scrutiny earlier this year after questions were raised about the protocols utilized for awarding $17 million in federally funded grants for urban park projects. One of those projects sent $1 million to the City of Santa Barbara, California to renovate a park, including the installation of synthetic turf at the park.