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.”