A slim majority of the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday afternoon to withdraw from a controversial $1.4 million border security grant known as Operation Stonegarden.

The grant covers overtime, mileage and equipment costs for the sheriff’s department and is an effort to encourage collaboration between local and federal law enforcement agencies.

However, the grant has been derided by local activists, who argue the grant forces local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws.

Supervisor Ramon Valadez, long considered the swing vote on the issue, said he wrestled with the decision for months but was ultimately swayed that the grant has eroded trust in the community — specifically of the Pima County Sheriff's Department deputies.

Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier said he was disappointed by the decision, and said he would have to re-evaluate whether his base budget can afford to keep remote offices in Three Points and Ajo open.

Funds for Operation Stonegarden helped to keep those offices running, he said.

Supervisor Steve Christy was the lone supervisor to vote against terminating the grant, saying a small group of activists was dominating the public debate.

"You do not represent the total feelings or desires of Pima County residents of even come close to representing a majority of our citizens," Christy said.

Supervisors Sharon Bronson and Richard Elias voted with Valadez to terminate the contract.

Supervisor Ally Miller did not attend the Tuesday meeting.

Operation Stonegarden-related activities are expected to end within the next 30 days.


Reporter with the Arizona Daily Star. I cover politics as well as the city of Tucson and other municipalities in Southern Arizona.