Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias shocked the community when he shrugged off a report by Sheriff Mark Napier that layoffs were certain if the acceptance of a federal grant intended to fund border area law enforcement agencies was once again delayed.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors were expected to accept the $1.2 million Stonegarden, and the $1 million HIDTA grants on Tuesday. Instead, Supervisors Sharon Bronson and Ramon Valadez joined Elias in delaying acceptance of the grants.
Supervisor Ally Miller called the delay a “a blatant display of careless disregard for our community.”
“Sheriff Napier explained layoffs would occur within weeks if funds were not accepted. In response, Supervisor Elias shrugged his shoulders and the vote proceeded,” Miller advised constituents in an email. “The supervisors have accepted more than $16 mil in Stonegarden and HIDTA grant funds over the past 10 years. These same grants were accepted throughout the entire Obama administration.”
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In an interview on KFYI’s James T. Harris Show, National Border Patrol Council Vice-President Art del Cueto said Elias’ move was dangerous. “Obviously this is concerning because it sends a message to drug traffickers that there is an easier way to get their product into the United States. It should be a big concern to citizens of this state, and of this country. This is sending a message to the criminal element that there is an easier route.”
Del Cueto told Harris that Arizona is the “top route” for drug trafficking. A total of 50 percent of all illegal drugs entering the U.S., come through Arizona.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created the program to “form partnerships with local sheriffs, highway patrol, and city and tribal police in 2003-2004. In 2009, Obama administration Homeland Security Secretary of Homeland Security and former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano testified before a congressional committee in praise of the program. She stated, “Operation Stonegarden grants direct critical funding to state, local and tribal law enforcement operations across the country.” said Secretary Napolitano. She was “proud to announce that the funding provides additional flexibility to ensure that our first responders are equipped with the resources they need to confront the complex and dynamic challenges that exist along our borders.”
Napolitano said the allocations reflected “President Obama’s increased emphasis on the Southwest border in response to cartel violence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Based on greater risk, heavy cross-border traffic and border-related threat intelligence, nearly 76 percent of Operation Stonegarden funds will go to Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas—up from 59 percent in fiscal year 2008.” Napolitano claimed that Operation Stonegarden funds would be “used for additional law enforcement personnel, overtime, travel and other related costs in order to further increase our presence along the borders.”
The Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard praised Napolitano’s announcement of increased Operation Stonegarden funding. “Since the Mexican cartels have made Arizona the leading gateway for smuggling humans, drugs and guns, these additional funds are well-targeted,” Goddard said in a press release. “We are strengthening border security in several respects, which include forging a closer relationship with our Mexican law enforcement partners. This money will be put to immediate use to protect Arizonans and fight border crime.”