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Arizona deputy likens border to war zone at Washington hearing

Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Steve Henry told a Washington panel that fighting crime along the border is like fighting in a warzone in Afghanistan or Iraq. (Cronkite News Service photo by Uriel J. Garcia)

WASHINGTON – Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Steve Henry said Wednesday that when his deputies go to the border they face a situation similar to a warzone in Afghanistan or Iraq.

“The fact that everybody we encounter, almost, is armed. The only difference is that we don’t exchange shots with them most of the time,” Henry said after speaking to a panel in Washington.

Henry was joined by sheriffs from around the country as part of a discussion panel hosted by the Center for Immigration Studies, an independent organization that advocates for limits on legal and illegal immigration, and the House Immigration Reform Caucus.

Many of those speakers blamed what they called the Obama administration’s lax enforcement of border and immigration laws for the problems they are seeing in their communities, many of which are far removed from the border.

The sheriffs, who also came from Iowa, North Carolina and Maryland, said that because drugs are a problem in their communities it is important that immigration officials support them in their efforts to enforce immigration laws.

Rockingham County, N.C., Sheriff Sam Page said that he has seen an increase of crimes by undocumented immigrants in his community.

“What I tell my deputies is that the problems you see at the border, and you think it’s coming, it’s already here,” Page said.

Henry, referring to drug traffickers pushing drugs through the U.S.-Mexico border, said sheriffs “have terrorists in our own backyard.”

Henry and the other sheriffs agreed that two federal initiatives – Secure Communities and the 287(g) program – have been beneficial for their counties, but that there is room for improvement.

Both programs partner immigration officials with local law enforcement agencies to help identify undocumented immigrants when they have been arrested for the other crimes. Both programs have been credited with contributing to the deportations of record numbers of undocumented immigrants.

“There is a lot of hoops and layers that you have to jump through to (use) 287(g),” Henry said. “Overall we’re happy with it, it’s better than nothing.”

But both programs have been heavily criticized by pro-immigrant activists who say that, instead of targeting criminals, the programs target undocumented immigrants who have not been convicted of crimes.

Some critics have even said that these programs have made it less likely that people in immigrant communities will report crimes out of fear of being deported.

Henry calls that “a disingenuous argument.”

“The reality of things is that it doesn’t affect our relationship,” with immigrant communities, he said.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said that while the sheriffs at Wednesday’s panel expressed satisfaction that federal officials have been partnering with their departments, he does not take the Obama administration seriously when it comes to enforcing immigration laws.

“I’m not going to believe that this administration is serious about cracking down on illegal immigration,” said King who was representing the House Immigration Reform Caucus on the panel.

“There isn’t anything in the next year … that President Obama could do to convince me that he has actually changed his mind,” King said.

The

Department of Homeland Security declined to respond Wednesday to King’s charges, instead pointing to a speech on border security that Secretary Janet Napolitano gave last week in Washington.

“We have committed unprecedented resources to this effort and, this year, will see yet again a historic drop in illegal crossings and more and more contraband seized,” Napolitano said then. “So let’s take the ‘border is out control myth’ out of the equation.”

6 comments

  1. I’ve lived in AZ all my life and don’t recall when Pinal became a border county.

  2. These “hearings are less than useless because D.C. knows exactly what is going on at the Mexican border. They just do not care, so Americans have to.

  3. THE Deputy is saying that because the drug cartels violence is spreading into
    his county and maricopa with kidnapping
    the zetas getting in a firefight in phoenis pd where they were wearing phoenix pd uniforrms
    the real phoenix pd bottled them up in an alley and they gave up because they only had a hundred rounds of ammo

    Henry, referring to drug traffickers pushing drugs through the U.S.-Mexico border, said sheriffs “have terrorists in our own backyard.”
    i dont know where you live but ive been advised that there are crips and bloods in winslow and that about 25 years ago
    do yourself a favor sign up for a concealed weapon training class get something like a taurus .45 and about ten clips
    get yourself a belt slide holster and belt to hold the holster and 6 clip pouches and learn how to shoot. get the permit that 33 states honor with az agreements

  4. “The fact that everybody we encounter, almost, is armed. The only difference is that we don’t exchange shots with them most of the time,” Henry said after speaking to a panel in Washington.

    Henry’s comment is laughable. Nearly every man, woman and child is armed in Arizona thanks to Russel Pearce and his kookocracy of NRA sychophants at the legislature. I can’t go to the grocery store without encountering armed people. We reap what we sow.

  5. Thomas would rather that only the drug dealers and criminals have arms. Russel Pearce works for the safety of Arizona, while the leftists tear it down and endanger Arizona’s citizens so Mexico can have its way. Thanks for nothing Thomas.

  6. If you don’t like being a sheriff, go do something else. The game of cat and mouse has been going on since Billy the Kid was roaming the borders in the 1800′s and Wyatt Earp was the law in Arizona.

    Most Arizona politicians and sheriff’s are whacked out kooks who will do anything to get on Fox News or CNN.

    Listen, do your job and keep your mouth shut…, if you don’t like what you’re doing, quit and become an accountants or something. What did you think being a law enforcement officer was all about? Lying at the beach and drinking cold beer? Border security was never easy…, ever… .

    Do your job and shush up or change occupations. The business owners of Arizona have had enough of you complainers getting on TV and ruining business in Arizona!!!

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