COCHISE COUNTY — Sheriff Mark Dannels, along with several other individuals, has been dismissed from the Homeland Security Advisory Council, a bipartisan panel put in place by the Obama and Trump administrations.
The “pink slip” to Dannels and about 29 other members of the advisory group was a letter dated March 26 from Alejandro Mayorkas, the new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas was recently appointed by the Biden administration to head the federal agency.
While thanking members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council for their dedication and support, Mayorkas told the group he was ending their term, effective the same date as the letter.
“In the service of an orderly transition to a new model for the HSAC, I have ended the term of current HSAC members effective March 26, 2021. I will reconstitute the HSAC in the next few weeks, once the new model has been developed ... ,” Mayorkas says in the letter, which was obtained by the Herald/Review.
At the end of the one-page missive, Mayorkas added: “I look forward to working with you in the future, whether as a member of a redesigned and reconstituted HSAC, or in a different capacity, as we together seek to advance the Department’s noble mission.”
According to an article in the Washington Post last week, “Former Department of Homeland Security officials and advisory board members who worked under Democratic and Republican administrations said they could not remember so many members being dismissed at once, as the general practice of past administrations was to allow appointees to serve out their terms before replacing them.
“The council is unpaid and includes leaders from state and local government, law enforcement, the private sector and academia who advise the agency on issues such as immigration, terrorism, crime and national disasters. Members serve one- to three-year terms and meet about four times a year.”
Dannels and others who sat on the HSAC have been critical of the Biden administration and its policies regarding undocumented migrants coming into the U.S. through Mexico. A week before Mayorkas sent out the letter, Dannels had participated in a press conference at the border in Douglas that included Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-FL, a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security. Both Ducey and Scott lambasted Biden and Mayorkas for being out of touch with what’s happening on the Southwest border and called on them to visit the area.
Dannels was appointed to the HSAC by the Trump administration. But other longer-serving members had been appointed under former President Obama, said Chad Wolf, the former acting secretary of Homeland Security, on Fox News.
In a letter he is planning to send to Mayorkas, Dannels expressed his chagrin with the action taken by the new secretary. The sheriff said he and other border sheriffs have had a good relationship with the Department of Homeland Security and it was disappointing to see Mayorkas’ “lack of engagement” with that group.
Dannels added that communicating with Mayorkas’ staff is not the same as speaking with him directly, because staff can act as a “filter.”
The sheriff encouraged Mayorkas to reconsider the dismantling of the HSAC, and “without delay,” to begin communicating with border sheriffs.
In a text message to the Herald/Review this weekend, Dannels called Mayorkas’ purge “sad.”
Wolf, who resigned as acting secretary of Homeland Security in January after the violence that erupted at the Capitol, told Fox News on Monday that Mayorka’s decision is “unprecedented.”
“The entire council was fired,” Wolf told reporters. “ ... Some were holdovers from the Obama administration. It’s supposed to be bipartisan ... they’re supposed to provide unvarnished advice, not act as an echo chamber.”
Wolf said there were a handful of projects or “efforts” currently ongoing with the dismissed HSAC that would likely be stopped.
“It’s very concerning,” he said.
Media relations representatives in Mayorkas’ office did not return an email or a phone call for comment to the Herald/Review on Tuesday.