Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels speaks at a gathering in San Simon last week.

The Mexican cartel has threatened deputies with the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Mark Dannels said earlier this week.

The sheriff shared the information with a small group of ranchers and homeowners gathered at the First Baptist Church in San Simon on Wednesday evening. The meeting was called so that residents could learn more about the situation with undocumented migrants coming across the border from Mexico.

Dannels told the crowd of about 25 people that the Mexican cartel is extremely organized on both sides of the border and no one crosses from Mexico into this country unless they pay a member of that organization first.

“We have empowered a criminal organization called the cartel based on the decisions being made in Washington, D.C.,” Dannels told the church group.

In a brief phone interview with the Herald/Review on Thursday, Dannels said of the cartel threat: “We have had threats and we’ve addressed it the best we can. We’re taking safety precautions to protect our deputies. If there are any new developments we will let the public know.”

Dannels told the group that the number of undocumented migrants coming through the border in Cochise County has grown from about 300 last spring to about 2,500 a month now.

Information released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection jibes with Dannels’ statement. Statistics released in March show that the number of people coming to the U.S. illegally — including unaccompanied children — continues to swell.

In the Tucson Sector — which includes Cochise County — there were “encounters” with 7,079 unaccompanied migrant children in March. That’s up 83 percent from March 2020, when authorities encountered 3,859 unaccompanied youngsters.

Encounters with single, migrant adults trying to enter the country illegally also jumped in the Tucson Sector, with 68,436 last month, compared to 21,189 in March 2020.

The ongoing issue prompted a pressure campaign of sorts in the last few months by several government and law enforcement entities who fired off letters to several federal officials, decrying the situation on the Southwest border. Dannels wrote a few of the missives, as did the mayors of Douglas, Willcox and Benson.

One letter written by the Western States Sheriffs Association of Laramie, Wyoming, expresses solidarity with the Southwest border sheriffs and the perils the organization says some of their colleagues are facing.

“In consultation with our membership on the Southwest border, it has become evident based on information learned that local law enforcement is a verified target of illegal aliens and drug smugglers crossing into the United States. Not reported in the national media are the countless violent interactions between local law enforcement and illegal aliens that are resulting in injury and death.”

On Friday, Gov. Doug Ducey announced Arizona would take matters into its own hands regarding the onslaught of undocumented migrants pouring into the state unless something is done in Washington, D.C.

Ducey’s statement came after the Arizona Department of Public Safety spotted 20 undocumented migrants in Chandler Friday. The state agency said it was rebuffed by both the Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement when they asked for help. The migrants were released into Chandler.

“The Biden/Harris administration needs to get its head out of the sand when it comes to the crisis at our border,” Ducey said. “This lack of action defies all logic, and flies in the face of the law. This administration is asleep at the switch, and their total lack of action is having real consequences here in the state of Arizona.

“I’ve met with our Border Patrol and they need help, and they need the support of the administration. It’s time for the White House to act and do its job so the dedicated law enforcement officials on the ground have the resources, support and direction they desperately need. I’m hopeful that our United States Senators and Congressional delegation will join me in calling for the President to deploy the National Guard to our border.

“If the federal government isn’t going to do its job, then Arizona will take matters into our own hands and provide support to sheriffs and local law enforcement. The policies of the Biden/Harris administration are inhumane to those seeking legitimate humanitarian relief, and do nothing but empower those that pose a serious threat to public safety, including drug cartels and human traffickers.”