Arizona sheriff: Border is a mess, union hampers Border Patrol work

NACO, Ariz. — U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s has reassured Americans that America’s southern border is “more secure than it has ever been.” Sheriff Larry Dever of Cochise County, Ariz. believes she’s wrong, and he told The Daily Caller that he can prove it.

Dever, a 30-year law enforcement veteran — 16 of them as a county sheriff — showed TheDC the view from the Coronado National Monument region, a mountainous region near the border. He chuckled and motioned toward a National Park Service sign that vividly warns visitors that it’s physically dangerous to venture close to the border.

“Which is it?” he asked, pointing to the sign, “Is it this, or is it what the politicians are saying in front of the TV cameras?”

“You tell me. The people who live here will tell you it is this.”

Dever said public-sector union rules were making it difficult to control the border effectively because of scheduling restrictions. And those who do patrol the border are instructed to avoid putting themselves in harm’s way.

“Border Patrol agents have been instructed not to work in certain areas because of the danger levels,” stated Dever, “Upper management denies that, but the guys on the ground will tell you it is absolutely true.”

Cochise County in southeastern Arizona has a front-row seat for an onslaught of illegal crossovers that began in the late 1990s after the federal government beefed up two other border crossings in El Paso and San Diego. “Operation Hold the Line” and “Operation Gatekeeper,” respectively, were successful, but Dever said the unintentional consequences included diverting Mexicans toward Arizona.

The Tucson sector, with major roadways leading to Interstate 10, is now a border-crossing mecca. It’s relatively easy, Dever said, to disperse people — and drugs — in this area. “Half of the illegal aliens who are caught trying to come into this country are caught in this little corridor down here,” he explained.

The peak years for illegal crossings were 1999 and 2000, but he said the border isn’t any safer. “Many of those coming in years past were coming on their own,” he remarked. “Today 99 percent of crossings are coordinated with the coyotes.”

Coyotes are Mexican nationals who specialize in smuggling humans and materials across the border in exchange for money, drugs or other payment.

“They’ve figured out that they can make even more money by charging those who want to cross with a fee” based on their nationality, Dever said. Mexicans seeking to cross the border are charged a few thousand dollars, while it costs OTMs — “Other Than Mexicans” — substantially more.