The Arizona illegal immigration enforcement law is being heard today before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The hearing focuses on whether the lower court injunction gutting the new Arizona law was properly entered and is based on an accurate application of the law.
Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever spoke with HUMAN EVENTS about the recent escalation of violence along the southern U.S. border in Arizona and the lawsuit.
“The Obama Administration actually did us a favor when they sued the State of Arizona because no decision-maker, no policymaker can run and hide anymore. They have to stand up and tell their constituents where they stand on this issue,” Dever said. “We’ve been trying to get that done for a long time.”
Dever has served in Cochise County law enforcement at the border for nearly 35 years.
Cochise, Santa Cruz and Pima counties compose what the U.S. Border Patrol designates as the Tucson Sector of the southern U.S. border.
“Half of the people that Border Patrol catch come across that stretch of border,” the sheriff said.
Dever says law enforcement officers engage in high-speed chases and are taking weapons fire at times from the Mexican side of the border.
“Somebody asked me the other day if we would actually fire into Mexico, and I told them, ‘You’re damn right we will. My guys are being shot at, and we’re no respecter of persons. We’ll fire back at whoever’s doing the shooting,’” Dever said.
Dever warns that the level of violence at the border is escalating not just in frequency but in scope.
“It’s all about control of territory and control of people who control the territory. Many years ago you did that with money. Now they do it with violence,” Dever said. “This is why you see all of the violence in the south with the beheadings and mass murders and shootings. It’s only a matter of time before it ends up in our lap.”
Arizona attorney Brian Bergin spoke with HUMAN EVENTS about the arguments Arizona is making at the hearing. Bergin represents BorderSheriffs.com, a group co-founded by Dever to help the border sheriffs on the front lines have a voice in the lawsuit.
“When the court entered its preliminary injunction, it entered it to try to prevent injury to ‘legal aliens.’ The district court also thought that if this law were enforced it would lead to an excess of inquiries with ICE inquiring as to people’s immigration status and that ICE simply may not have the resources to field all those calls.”
Bergin notes that Congress by statute already requires Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to respond to the calls.
He also notes that the injunction based on “potential” and “speculative” harm to “legal aliens” carves out an extremely limited population.
“Arizona has already introduced evidence that about two-tenths of one percent of all aliens in Arizona meet this definition of legal alien,” Bergin states.
Bergin says the federal government declared it is the sole source and authority for immigration law and that Arizona’s law strays off into their territory.
“What that argument fails to honestly portray is that Congress has said time and time again through its immigration laws that it desires local cooperation and local enforcement,” he said.
He said Arizona’s sanctuary cities contributed to the need for the Arizona law.
“Sanctuary cities create a safe harbor for people who want to break immigration laws. Arizona’s 1070 steps out and says federal immigration law must be enforced throughout the State of Arizona,” Bergin said. “It doesn’t sound particularly controversial but apparently it offends some on the other side of this argument.”
“Arizona and its citizens are suffering every day from the federal government’s failure to secure the border, enforce its own laws and the federal government’s continued tolerance of sanctuary city policies,” Bergin added.
According to Dever, new policies from the Obama Administration have people “stacking up” to illegally cross the border.
“In the last couple of weeks, as I understand it, Border Patrol and ICE have discontinued what they call the repatriation process of shipping people back into the deeper parts of Mexico. They’re just sticking them back across the line so they can come back and come back and come back,” Dever said.
The sheriff says the new Arizona law won’t change much in enforcement in his county because the rural county doesn’t have much of an illegal resident population.
“I live in the world of probable cause. If you don’t have identification and you speak very little English and you’re out here wandering in the desert with a group of 30 other people and you tell me you crossed the border 30 miles east of the port of entry that’s good enough for me,” Dever said.
Dever supports the new law because the sanctuary cities are an attractive nuisance that encourage the flood of people coming across illegally.
“We’re a gateway and in most cases a floodgate. They’re coming through us and running over us and headed your way,” Dever warns. “There are some bad people in this mix, people with very bad intentions. There are also some good people, but you can’t sort them out until you know who they are, and the only way you’re going to know who they are is if they come through the gate.”