Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever will no longer testify at Thursday's border security hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, leaving the spot to his fellow "Border Sheriff," Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.
There's been speculation as to the motive of Dever's cancellation since it came after he told Fox News that Border Patrol agents are being instructed not to arrest all illegal border crossers to keep apprehension numbers down, but his spokeswoman says it was simply a scheduling conflict.
The Fox News story quoted Dever as saying he planned to tell the committee about the substance of his conversations with Border Patrol agents.
“I will raise my hand to tell the truth and swear to God, and nothing is more serious or important than that,” Fox News quote Dever as saying. “I’m going to tell them that, here’s what I hear and see every day: I had conversation with agent A, B, C, D and this is what they told me.”
On Monday, Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher sent a strongly-worded letter to Dever saying that Dever's allegations were 100-percent false and "unfairly cast a negative light on the hard work done" by the agents.
But Cochise County Sheriff's spokeswoman Carol Capas said Wednesday that Dever's withdrawal from the hearing had nothing to do with the letter or backing down from his allegations. It was a scheduling conflict, nothing more, she said.
Sheriff Dever was asked to testify at the hearing today, Wednesday, April 6, but the committee changed the hearing date to tomorrow, Thursday, April 7. Dever is out of the county this week and needed to be back in Cochise County by April 7 and couldn't juggle his schedule, Capas said. The committee informed the sheriff of the change the middle of last week, Capas said.
"It was just too late," Capas said. "They changed it to the seventh, not him, and he just couldn't make it."
Capas said Dever stands behind his allegations, which he's made several times before. She sent this statement from Sheriff Dever:
“I do not make this stuff up. I did respond to questions from a Fox news affiliate who apparently had received information pertinent to the discussion. That said, I can unequivocally say what I have told you comes from Border Patrol agents who work the problem every day and other federal government officials from various organizations. Some of it is 3 years old, some of it is current. The honorable men and women of the Border Patrol, ICE and other federal agencies and their efforts are not to be disparaged, period. I do contend that their leadership needs direction and a serious dose of reality. When we hear from upper echelon federal officials that our border is 'more secure than ever', we have to ask, 'how long is ever?' because we have been here that long and know better. The border is more dangerous than ever before. This has nothing to do with the huge increase of assets dedicated to the fight, but everything to do with the determination and dangerous nature of the people we are fighting. So don't confuse 'secure' with 'safe.' Agents, deputies, cops on the ground, working day and night, will affirm that we have a long, long way to go to achieve 'secure'. In the meantime, we all, Border Patrol, Sheriffs, police officers, will continue to work our butts off to keep you safe.”
So, Babeu will testify at the hearing — “Securing the Border: Progress at the Local Level" — alongside El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar, Imperial County, Calif., Sheriff Raymond Loera, and Luna County, N.M., Sheriff Raymond Cobos.
To read more about what Babeu might say, read my colleague Tim Steller's blog item here.