Governor Doug Ducey shared on Thursday that he and 20 other governors petitioned Congress to end the Biden administration’s military vaccine mandate.
The 21-member coalition, led by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee through the Republican Governors Association (RGA), urged congressional leadership in a letter to end the vaccine mandate implemented by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last August. The coalition noted that more service members were leaving than were being recruited.
“The Biden vaccine mandate on our military creates a national security risk that severely impacts our defense capabilities abroad and our state readiness here at home,” stated the coalition.
In October, the National Guard and Army disclosed that they missed their recruiting target by 10 and 25 percent, respectively. Last month, the Armed Forces revealed that they’ve discharged 8,000 members since implementing the vaccine mandate.
The governors warned that the falling National Guard forces would hinder natural disaster and emergency operations in their states. The coalition reminded the congressional leaders that President Joe Biden told 60 Minutes that “the pandemic is over” in September. However, multiple, anonymous White House officials attempted to walk back Biden’s statement through interviews with mainstream outlets favored by the administration like Politico and Washington Post.
In addition to Ducey and Lee, Governors Kay Ivey (Alabama), Asa Hutchinson (Arkansas), Ron DeSantis (Florida), Brad Little (Idaho), Eric Holcomb (Indiana), Kim Reynolds (Iowa), Tate Reeves (Mississippi), Mike Parson (Missouri), Greg Gianforte (Montana), Pete Ricketts (Nebraska), Chris Sununu (New Hampshire), Doug Burgum (North Dakota), Kevin Stitt (Oklahoma), Henry McMaster (South Carolina), Kristi Noem (South Dakota), Greg Abbott (Texas), Spencer Cox (Utah), Glenn Youngkin (Virginia), and Mark Gordon (Wyoming) signed the letter.
Seven RGA members that didn’t sign onto the letter were Governors Brian Kemp (Georgia), Larry Hogan (Maryland), Charlie Baker (Massachusetts), Ralph Torres (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), Mike Dewine (Ohio), Phil Scott (Vermont), and Jim Justice (West Virginia).
Though Ducey issued support on this issue to end the military vaccine mandate, it’s unlikely it will be a priority for his successor. Governor-elect Katie Hobbs praised the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate last September in a statement to the Arizona Mirror.
“Vaccines are our best path to defeat this pandemic and keep our economy open. This is the right move to protect Arizonans and our economic recovery,” stated Hobbs.
In mid-October, Hobbs indicated in a campaign press release that she was supportive of sweeping vaccine mandates. Hobbs’ campaign did so by highlighting excerpts from a CNN opinion piece denouncing her Republican opponent, Kari Lake, for opposing vaccine mandates.
However, just days later, Hobbs signaled neutrality on the subject of requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for K-12 attendance. Hobbs told C-SPAN that she hadn’t considered whether or not children should be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend school.
In April, Ducey signed HB2498 into law, prohibiting state and local governments from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine.
Governor Doug Ducey criticized Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request for National Guard troops to mitigate about 4,000 migrants in her city, noting that Arizona bears a far greater burden and that her party could solve the root cause. Since January, there have been over 1.4 million encounters along the southwest border; that’s well over 3.2 million encounters since President Joe Biden took office.
Ducey noted that Arizona endured just shy of 43,600 border encounters in June — not including the far-greater estimates of “gotaways,” or those illegal crossers spotted but not apprehended.
The governor noted that the Biden administration hasn’t declared a national emergency over the border crisis. Ducey issued a state of emergency last April. He also recounted how Arizona used its own state resources to deploy its own National Guard troops to handle the mass border invasion.
Ducey has consistently accused Democratic leadership of failing to take action. He advised Bowser that her plea for troops was only a temporary solution to a problem that her party could solve.
“Mayor Bowser is right. This is a humanitarian crisis. Yet her allies in the White House and Congress refuse to act,” stated Ducey. “If the Mayor really wants to address the issue, she can join us in calling for President Biden to take action at the root of the problem, and secure our southern border.”
AZ Free News reported earlier this month that the Border Patrol (BP) Yuma Sector reported over 235,000 encounters — a 300 percent increase from this same time last year. Nationwide, that number grew to over 1.7 million encounters this fiscal year, October to June.
In May, the Arizona House Republican caucus submitted a legislative proclamation denouncing the current state of the border. The proclamation exhorted President Joe Biden’s administration to act.
Both of Arizona’s Democratic Senators, Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, took action to mitigate the illegal crossings. The pair announced in March that they secured budget provisions to increase border security, though none were allocated to finishing the border wall.
Mere hours after the missing body of Texas Guardsman Bishop Evans was found along the Rio Grande River, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero expressed support of the Biden administration’s decision to end Title 42, a policy allowing expedited deportations. Romero hasn’t commented on Evans at all.
Romero also lambasted Americans for not being benevolent enough to the relentless torrent of illegal immigrants. News of Romero’s press release was covered in the country’s largest independent political news site of 2020 and one of the largest this year, The Hill.
“Tucson stands ready to support those seeking asylum,” tweeted Romero. “America should take a lesson from our European allies who are taking in millions of Ukrainian refugees. Democracies don’t get to pick and choose when to support human rights.”
Evans, a field artilleryman and critical support for multiple Special Operations Forces missions overseas, died while attempting to rescue two illegal immigrants who were crossing the Rio Grande River around Eagle Pass, Texas. The Texas Rangers later revealed that the pair were drug traffickers.
AZ Free News asked Romero for comment on Evans’ sacrifice. She didn’t respond.
Romero issued the statement alongside Brownsville, Texas Mayor Trey Mendez.
The Biden administration pledged to end Title 42 on May 23, but reports retrieved from several attorney generals in court filings revealed that they were rescinding the policy immediately. On Monday, a federal judge ordered the Biden administration to keep Title 42 in place.
The facts prove the Southwest border of the United States is not secure, despite what a Texas Congresswoman said Wednesday, according to Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels, who is asking for more Arizona National Guard deployment to the border.
On Thursday, Dannels told KFYI’s James T. Harris that comments by U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) of the southwest border being both sovereign and secure is “100 percent not true,” as is her comment that the situation at the border is simply being “subjected to biased and unfair narratives for political purposes.”
Dannels noted there were 1,473,000 million encounters reported at the southwest border from Oct. 1, 2020 through Aug. 31, 2021, up 325 percent from the same period last year. Those who turned themselves in or were captured came from 164 countries, with 63 percent identified as citizens of somewhere other than Mexico, he added.
The sheriff also said 183,000 border crossers were taken into custody during that period in the Tucson Sector which includes 80 miles of border Cochise County shares with Mexico. He added that an estimated 115,000 “getaways” were reported, of which 85 percent appeared to be adult males traveling without family.
There have also been 162 migrants deaths along the 372-mile Arizona / Mexico border, all of which must be treated as an assumed homicide by the local sheriffs.
Those, says Dannels, are only a few of the “politically neutral” statistics which easily show the Biden Administration is not providing Americans a sovereign and secure border as Rep. Jackson Lee claims.
“Show me a stat that says we’re doing something well and I’ll sit back and apologize, but I’m not seeing it, I’m not experiencing it,” he told Harris.
Dannels said the reality is that drug smugglers and human traffickers are invading the United States, exploiting not only the southwest border but all communities across the country. And the Cartels are using border crossers to move a huge increase of drugs in as well.
To counter the lack of attention by President Joe Biden to the border, Dannels recently asked Gov. Doug Ducey and Major Gen. Kerry Muehlenbeck of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs for more National Guard members at the border. In addition, Cochise County recently secured state funding for equipment and resources to address the local impact of the uncontrolled border.
In April, Ducey ordered several Arizona National Guard members to the border to assist county sheriffs with administrative and maintenance activities. This frees up more deputies to respond to calls and investigate crimes related to the border crisis.
The governor announced a one-year extension to the deployment, which was welcomed by Dannels, whose county is home to several sections of uncompleted border wall as well as the Douglas Port of Entry across from Agua Prieta, Sonora. What is needed now, said Dannels, is for a collective message directed at the White House.
“President Biden owns this, he’s the messenger on this,” said Dannels. “The blame game is over now, he’s been in office for 10 months. It’s time to accept responsibility and secure this border.”
When Gov. Doug Ducey pledged $25 million last month to deploy the Arizona National Guard to the Mexico border he did so after the Biden Administration ignored pleas from state and local law enforcement officials to address the influx of immigrants and smugglers making it unhindered across the border.
The governor noted the National Guard troops would be on State Active Duty to assist with medical operations in detention centers, help with installation and maintenance of border cameras, monitor and collect data from the cameras, and analyze the situation at the border to identify trends in smuggling corridors.
The deployment was well received by two border sheriffs -Cochise County’s Mark Dannels and Yuma County’s Leon Wilmot- who spent the last three months trying to get federal authorities to come up with a plan for the escalating public safety threat and humanitarian crisis at and well beyond the international border.
However, Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos has insisted his agency does not need National Guard support even though the county shares nearly 130 hundred miles of border with Mexico. The same “no thanks” approach was expressed by Sheriff David Hathaway of Santa Cruz County.
The difference in the positions of the sheriffs falls across political lines – Dannels and Wilmot are registered Republicans, while Hathaway and Nanos are Democrats.
The same political division is reflected in an April 21 letter signed by one county supervisor from each of the border counties in which they chastised Ducey for not asking for their input about the border situation. The signers -all of whom as Democrats- serve as their counties’ representatives on the Arizona Border Counties Coalition.
“We are disappointed that you failed to consult with the various Boards of Supervisors of each border county on this matter,” the Coalition letter states. “If asked, we would have requested assistance for transportation services, specifically buses and drivers, to provide those transportation services that we are now left to arrange on our own.”
The letter was signed by Sharon Bronson, Pima County; Ann English, Cochise County; Bruce Bracker, Santa Cruz County; and Tony Reyes, Yuma County.
Chief of Staff Mark Napier of the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) serves as his county’s point of contact with the Arizona National Guard. Last Thursday more than 30 troops arrived in Cochise County to perform a variety of non-law enforcement duties, including working with an extensive camera system utilized by the Southeastern Arizona Border Region Enforcement (SABRE) team to monitor cross-border traffic.
The troops are also providing support in CCSO’s jail and other clerical activities which allows sheriff’s personnel to deal with “other service demands and address the increase in challenges associated with the border crisis we currently face,” Napier explained.
On Friday, Napier told AZ Free News he and Sheriff Dannels had no advance notice that Supervisor English was signing the letter to Ducey, but they do not see the supervisor’s stance about deployment as being in conflict with CCSO’s position that the border crisis “presents a public safety, national security and human rights issue” which must be addressed in collaboration with federal, state, and local partners.
“The letter expresses some frustration over the lack of engagement between the Governor and Supervisors with respect to the deployment of AZNG personnel,” Napier said. “That is a matter between those Supervisors and the Governor.”
Napier added the Coalition’s letter also states border security is a responsibility of the federal government, “which in fact it is.” And the letter does not deny there is a public safety concern related to the current conditions along the border, he noted.
The Coalition’s letter makes no mention of the frequency or cost of transportation services any of the counties have had to provide or arrange for.