Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier has the unenviable task of managing public safety throughout more than 9,000 square miles of rugged desert, but county lawmakers may have made his job even harder.
A majority of the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to reject $1.4 million in funding from Operation Stonegarden, a federal grant program aimed at boosting cooperation between the federal government and local law enforcement on border security issues.
In Pima County — Arizona’s largest along the border and second-largest by population — the Stonegarden grants have long been used to cover overtime pay and equipment replacement for sheriff’s deputies. The money also helped Napier maintain offices in isolated communities more than two hour’s drive from the county seat of Tucson.
Activists have tied the grants to President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda, accusing Pima County of supporting controversial federal policies like the separation of illegal immigrant families because of its participation in Operation Stonegarden.
Napier says the grant money isn’t put toward immigration enforcement in any way, but rather conventional public safety services in areas that would be impossible to cover without federal funding. He spoke about the controversy with Daily Caller News Foundation reporters, who are in Arizona to document life and crime in the southwest borderlands.
“They said it was clearly because they find objectionable the immigration policies and practices out of Washington, D.C., which have absolutely nothing, and I mean zero, to do with what we’re doing in Pima County,” Napier said. “By their vote … they made not only this county less safe, they made the United States of America less safe.”
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