On February 19, 2018 Congressman Raul Grijalva wrote Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias in opposition to the acceptance of the federal Operation Stonegarden grant. One day later, Elias, as chair of the Board signed documents accepting the grant.
Since January 1, 2018, of the $1,191,208 of Stonegarden funds budgeted, the County has already spent $449,545. According to documents, the County has been reimbursed $320,000 of the $449,545 expended.
On the same day Elias signed the acceptance documents, the Community Law Enforcement Partnership Commission was formed. According to County records, the Commission “was created on February 20, 2018 as one of five conditions to accept Operation Stonegarden funds for Federal Fiscal Year 2017.”
Commission members include non-voting member, Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier, and radical activist Zaira Livier Serrato. Zaira Livier Serrato first came into public view for her role in the successful effort to shut down a small Tucson restaurant, Cup It Up. The restaurant came under fire for comments in support of President Trump in a Facebook post.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, “the restaurant was the target of endless harassing and threatening phone calls throughout the weekend following Friday’s Facebook post. Two employees quit Saturday because of the calls and several more quit throughout the weekend.”
Related article: Cup It Up Fails Tucson’s Ideological Litmus Test For Businesses
During the August 8, 2018 Board of Supervisors’ meeting, Livier Serrato, director of the People’s Defense Initiative, claimed that current deportation practices are leading to deaths in Mexico. She emotionally told a heartbreaking story about a young “boy” who was recently killed in Mexico after recently being deported and spoke of the assassination of her brother, Said Serrato. Said was in fact deported under the Obama administration and was assassinated in the cartel-controlled city of Querétaro, Mexico in June. Zaire raised over $14,000 on GoFundMe to bring his body to the U.S. for burial. He left behind a wife and two daughters; their whereabouts are unknown.
Livier Serrato claimed that Tucson mortuary director advised her that in the cooler next to her brother was the body of the “boy,” age 18. Livier Serrato told the supervisors, “We have boys, men and women, sitting in the South Side of Tucson, kept in coolers, because they’ve been deported and they’ve died. As we speak,” according to a local online newspaper.
“Don’t make this a matter this is complicated, it is very straight-forward, these policies kill our families, they killed mine, and they killed that poor boy, who sat in that mortuary with my brother with the same wound,” according to the news report.
According to El Grafico, Said was killed in the course of robbing a pharmacy. His partner in crime shot him in the head, and his body was found by authorities in the street in front of the pharmacy.
For years, the County accepted and spent millions of Stonegarden dollars. For the past few months, County officials have led the public to believe that this round of funding is on hold as part of the resistance to the Trump administration. As a result, month after month, a handful of Trump opponents have declared their opposition during Calls to the Audience portion of Board meetings.
On August 13, 2018, the Commission met to continue the debate to accept monies that were already accepted and spent in large part.
According to the as yet approved meeting minutes, Billie Peard, of the ACLU, stated “that he that he and Sheriff Napier have made good dialogue and that it may not be the same Stonegarden that it once was, nor as it is in other counties.” Despite this, the Commission “was unable to make a recommendation at this time to the Board of Supervisors on Operation Stonegarden.”
In his letter to Elias, Grijalva wrote, “While this funding is tempting in terms of some fiscal support for law-enforcement it carries burdens and uncertainties for Pima County that should override any limited physical support by the federal government.”
“I fully appreciate the fiscal considerations that you must factor in your decision. The consideration of community relations, legal liabilities and becoming a willing partner in a Trump strategy that can only lead to division and conflict is not a long-term benefit for Pima County. If the situation was such that the Trump administration was seeking comprehensive and fair solutions to immigration and security, such an approach would almost certainly cause the Stonegarden grants to be unnecessary. By accepting the funding at this time after all that has been said, done and threatened by the Trump ministration, the Board of Supervisors will implicitly partner with the Trumps strategy. The issue of safety for Pima County residents is paramount, involving the new law-enforcement professionals of Pima county as enforcers of a narrow and buy us policy regarding border security will ignore the real complexities of the borderlands,” argued Grijalva in his letter.
“By rejecting the funding, Pima County sends a powerful message that its leaders seek smart security for the border, comprehensive reform and prohibits the rights of residents. Given this time in history, your stand against Trump’s strategy is an important voice. The rejection of the Stonegarden grant is correct from a fiscal and, most certainly, a moral imperative.” Grijalva concluded, “I thank you for your attention and consideration.”
It is unclear at this time as to whether or not the County will be required to return the $449,545 it has already spent of the 2017 Stonegarden grant.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to attempt a vote once again on whether to accept the money they have already spent at their September 4, 2018 meeting.