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Cochise County Sheriff on Lukeville crossing closure: 'This isn’t how government should work'

'This isn’t how government should work': Cochise County Sheriff wants federal government to help with migrants
Posted at 11:20 AM, Dec 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-06 13:25:24-05

SIERRA VISTA, AZ — Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels is calling on Washington DC for help with the surge of migrants crossing the southern border, as his deputies continue to encounter smugglers on a daily basis.

Dannels said his team has had 59 smuggling events and encountered 72 load vehicles over the last four weeks.

“We don’t want this kind of crime here in the county," he said. "Smuggling is a form of modern-day slavery. You're stuffing kids in trunks and back seats and putting adults on top of them. We’ve seen it all here.”

Dannels wants the federal government to become more involved and to help local law enforcement. The county expects to see even more street releases with the closure of the Lukeville Point of Entry and funding running out in Pima County for migrant resources.

“We’re just here doing everything we can, trying to keep our county safe," Dannels said. "If I sound frustrated, I’m very frustrated because this isn’t how government should work. I deal with public safety, not political safety, so it’s frustrating.”

In the last four weeks, CCSO has had 61 felonies for border-related crime. Dannels noted more local young adults are being caught smuggling than previously. He said it's because this is "the new normal" and a way people can make lots of money.

“We’re holding the flood gates back," Dannels said. "Step away from those gates and ignore them, and see if they don’t bust open on us. That’s what we’re doing in Cochise County. We're trying to hold those flood gates from opening up because once they do it’s going to be very difficult to close those gates again.”

Dannels said he met with members of the federal government last week and isn't sure they understand the true impact of the surge because they aren't seeing what's happening firsthand.

“I have a real problem with that. I think it's really bad, and if this is the best our government can do, then we’re failing," Dannels said. "We can’t prioritize other borders and not prioritize our own."

Operation Safe Streets and the increased law enforcement presence in the county will continue until the increased activity at the border is contained.