SIERRA VISTA — This time it was the public’s turn to hear what the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office is doing locally to help secure the border against undocumented individuals and drug mules trying to make it into the U.S. daily.
It was a full house at the Sierra Vista Police Department’s auditorium Friday when Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels, County Attorney Brian McIntyre and Sheriff’s Sgt. Tim Williams gave citizens a stark snapshot of the situation on the border, an almost identical presentation that was given two weeks prior to lawmakers from all over the country.
There were some mixed reactions among the mostly older crowd of attendees, but for the most part the individuals who sat in rapt attention nodded their heads in agreement and clapped when Dannels, McIntyre and Williams talked about swift actions taken against those who cross the border illegally with nefarious plans in mind.
“If you smuggle in Cochise, you’re going to jail in Cochise,” Dannels said, regarding drug mules who have been stopped with more than 100 pounds of marijuana strapped to their backs in burlap packs.
While that statement drew applause from the majority of the public, it irked others.
“I think they’re trying to scare us,” said Charles Corrado. “Why do you think these drugs are coming over here? It’s because people (in the U.S.) want drugs.
“Don’t get me wrong. I support what they’re trying to do,” he continued. “They’re trying to keep us safe. But c’mon. You’re focusing on someone carrying 100 pounds of cannabis? They need to focus on more serious things.”
Environmentalist Laiken Jordahl, who recently spoke on Arizona Public Radio concerning the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that allows President Donald Trump to use Pentagon funds to erect a wall along parts of the southwest border, said Friday’s roundtable was, “A bunch of garbage.”
“They didn’t even talk about the imminent border wall construction that is about to begin,” said Jordahl, a borderlands campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson. “That’s why I came here.”
As he spoke, a woman walked by quickly and said: “It (the round table) was all very one-sided.”
Dannels told the public that he set up Friday’s roundtable after ranchers told him they wanted to learn more about what was being done locally to help secure the border, following the roundtable for legislators was held at the Sheriff’s Office in Bisbee on July 31.
That session resulted in two members of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors pleading with congressmen to send money and aid to Cochise County so that Dannels and other local and state agencies can continue combatting the issues on the border.
“For the last 30 years we’ve (Cochise County) been on the front line of smuggling — both human and drugs,” the sheriff told the audience. “The cartels south of the border control what comes across those borders.”
Cochise County has been able to stem the tide of illegal migrants somewhat because of a tough law passed in 2015 that prosecutes minors caught transporting drugs across the border as adults. McIntyre said the word has gotten through to drug cartel bosses in Mexico and the number of teens coming through with drugs strapped to their backs has slowed considerably.
Gordon Anderson of Tombstone attended Friday’s roundtable and said he’s behind the sheriff. “I thought it was very professional and very accurate. It was also scary.”