Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever has stepped down from a post representing Arizona sheriffs in a collaborative border security initiative with federal officials following comments made last week by a high-ranking government official.
“I cannot buy into the politicization of the whole dang thing,” Dever said in a news release last week. “I simply cannot be a party to this federal government hypocrisy and duplicity. I’ll continue to fight the battle for security, but I won’t participate in spreading propaganda based on false statistical premises.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin said last week in Tucson that the Alliance to Combat Transnational Threats, also known as ACTT, has helped drive down illegal border crossing and has pressured cross-border smuggling organizations operating in the Sonora-Arizona corridor.
He credited the initiative, which was launched in September 2009, with making the border more safe and secure. The alliance consists of 60 federal, state, local and tribal law agencies in Arizona working to disrupt criminal organizations.
Dever doesn’t agree that the border is more secure, and called the figures cited by Bersin as “meaningless statistics that reflect nothing in terms of quality of life.”
Dever, a Republican, and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, also a Republican, have been at odds with the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama since the Department of Justice announced it would sue the state of Arizona over the immigration enforcement law, SB 1070.
In a separate lawsuit over the law, the ACLU and civil rights groups sued all of the state's sheriffs and county attorneys. In response, Dever and Babeu, with the help of the Iowa-based Legacy Foundation and the Scottsdale-based Rose Law Group, set up a Web-based fundraising effort, called BorderSheriffs.com.
Dever took particular exception with Bersin’s use of the Spanish phrase, “no mas,” when the commissioner spoke about increasing consequences for illegal border crossers caught in Arizona.
“If you try to enter this country illegally through the Arizona-Sonora border, you will face a consequence,” Bersin said on Feb. 8. “‘No mas.’ No more returns without consequences if you act illegally and cross through this border.”
In his news release, Dever pointed out that the Department of Justice lawsuit points out a potential for racial profiling with the law.
“Commish Bersin uses the term ‘no mas, mas,’” Dever wrote. “How do you say ‘no more’ in Mandarin Chinese, or Farsi, or Russian or any other language spoken by illegal border crossers? Is there not some profiling or at least stereotyping going on there?”
In fiscal year 2010, Mexicans represented 92 percent of all illegal border crossers apprehended in the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector and 89 percent of all illegal border crossers apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border, show figures from the Department of Homeland Security. The majority of the non-Mexicans arrested are from Latin American countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.