Sheriff Says His Hands Are Tied As Yuma Braces For Biden Immigration Policy Fallout

A decrepit barbed wire fence serves as the wall along the U.S. Mexico border running along the Chilton ranch southern boundary. [Photo by Jonathan DuHamel]

Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot responded to Rep. Paul Gosar, telling him that his hands are tied in terms of the Biden administration’s decision to release illegal aliens into surrounding communities.

Gosar had sent a letter urging Wilmot and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to immediately implement a plan to intercept the 50 illegal aliens that the United States Customs and Border Protection recently announced they will begin immediately releasing into Yuma County on a daily basis.

Yuma area residents are hoping something can be done on a local level.

“As the Sheriff of Yuma County, I am tasked with enforcing state law and keeping the peace in our community. These are duties that I have undertaken for over 36 years in Yuma County,” wrote Wilmot. “However, as Sheriff, I do not have the statutory authority to honor Congressman Gosar’s request to intercept aliens released into the community by the Federal government who has given them documents giving them permission to be in this country.”

“We often communicate with the Federal policymakers and seek to make our positions heard,” wrote Wilmot referring to his counterparts in the Southwestern Border Sheriffs’ Coalition, the Western States Sheriffs’ Association, and the National Sheriffs’ Association. “It is frustrating when those policymakers make decisions and enact policies that impact our communities without first having communicated with us at the local level.

Gosar cited what he believes is the risk to public health and safety as the impetus for his request. He believes there has been “a lack of adequate plans to screen for COVID-19, implement quarantine standards or perform background checks on these illegal aliens before their release into the general public.”

“I am pleased to learn from our local Federal partners at ICE and Border Patrol that they are working diligently to screen these individuals to protect us from potential criminals,” Wilmot advised Gosar. “I am also glad to know that they are at least being medically screened prior to release and anyone who is identified as a potential health risk is taken in for medical treatment. However, I remain alarmed at the potential this new policy has to quickly overwhelm our community resources with illegal aliens not being rapid tested for COVID-19 prior to release and then utilizing public transportation across the United States to their final destinations, as well as the ancillary impact to our citizens due to services being consumed by these individuals.”

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Gosar also suggested that the Federal Emergency and Management Agency use the “trillions of dollars in COVID-19 emergency relief funds to offset the costs for the apprehension and treatment of these illegal aliens.”

“Where these illegal aliens go after their “release” is anyone’s guess. Phoenix. Tucson. Prescott. San Diego. These are super spreader events that will go off daily. If we are to take seriously the state and County’s efforts to rein in the pandemic, then releasing 50 potentially positive cases into Arizona every day is a threat to public health and constitutes an emergency,” said Gosar.

Wilmot issued the following statement in response:

.I received a letter from Congressman Paul Gosar regarding the planned release of illegal border crossers into our local community. In his letter, Congressman Gosar requests that I “intercept these aliens and hold them in prison until they can be tested, quarantined, and then returned to their home countries.”

As the Sheriff of Yuma County, I am tasked with enforcing state law and keeping the peace in our community. These are duties that I have undertaken for over 36 years in Yuma County. However, as Sheriff, I do not have the statutory authority to honor Congressman Gosar’s request to intercept aliens released into the community by the Federal government who has given them documents giving them permission to be in this country.

As a border Sheriff, I work with and communicate with our Federal partners at Border Patrol and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) on nearly a daily basis. I also work with my counterparts in the Southwestern Border Sheriffs’ Coalition, the Western States Sheriffs’ Association, and the National Sheriffs’ Association to formulate good policy on all matters related to law enforcement. One of those matters is often border security and the impact illegal immigration has on our local communities. We often communicate with the Federal policymakers and seek to make our positions heard. It is frustrating when those policymakers make decisions and enact policies that impact our communities without first having communicated with us at the local level. I and my counterparts in the above mentioned groups remain committed to being the voice of our communities and to advocating for a cooperative relationship with our Federal partners when it comes to matters of public safety. As such, on February 17, 2021, a group of Sheriffs came up with the topics listed below related to the President’s anticipated Migrant Protection Protocols to bring 25,000 asylum seekers into the United States, as well as our concerns related to illegal border crossers being released into society due to COVID-19 restrictions placed on our Federal partners who do not have the ability to house all those apprehended along the southwestern border. The below concerns were presented to DHS leadership on February 17, 2021 and we await their response.

Releasing people with no accurate COVID-19 testing or tracking into the United States during a pandemic. There is no scientific or medical rationale behind this decision.

  • Title 42 is being disregarded (legal challenges on 42 violations).
  • Where are the tests; vaccination certificates; spread health risks into the interior? Are non-U.S. Citizens getting vaccines?
  • Human rights violation to communities: Resource shortages in states are not part of the consideration. DHS is not considering that communities are at a breaking point. The lack of consultation with local communities will put families and children at enhanced risk of shortfalls of social services.

Message from Sheriffs: It is not credible that DHS leadership is properly prepared to undertake this effort and local communities will bear the brunt of the consequences.

DHS leadership promised transparency and cooperation with local communities, but now is exposing communities to a major health crisis into those communities and potentially to migrants themselves once they are released.

  • DHS leadership has NOT been transparent to communities and health departments across the country which could cause a new potential burden on the hospital system with no method of payment. How will they fix this?
  • DHS leadership has no guidance for local communities on infrastructure to support swollen community numbers already hit with a global pandemic.
  • DHS leadership is not accepting responsibility or taking ownership over those released into society. We all know the asylum system is hopelessly broken with a multi-year case backlog.
  • Local hospitals will be tasked to address medical care when COVID-19 inevitably is spread further. Who is paying for this increased medical care?
  • CBP is not congressionally appropriated for transportation of detainees once processed. Will this be addressed?
  • Will CBP just release all family units coming across and move processing to a “later date” when they arrive at their final destination?
  • How is CBP screening for human trafficking, sex assault victims and potential gang affiliates?
  • Is this the new precedent for how the unavoidable rush of thousands more migrants will be handled in the ensuing months?

Message from Sheriffs: This is in effect going to be an unfunded fiscal drain on local communities including law enforcement who do not have the resources to absorb the results of this decision and the effects of this new precedent.
As your Sheriff, I remain committed to my duties and responsibilities. I will continue to enforce state law and provide for public safety. I do share concerns about the lack of planning or consideration of the public impact the change in policy leading to the release of these individuals into our communities will bring. I am pleased to learn from our local Federal partners at ICE and Border Patrol that they are working diligently to screen these individuals to protect us from potential criminals. I am also glad to know that they are at least being medically screened prior to release and anyone who is identified as a potential health risk is taken in for medical treatment. However, I remain alarmed at the potential this new policy has to quickly overwhelm our community resources with illegal aliens not being rapid tested for COVID-19 prior to release and then utilizing public transportation across the United States to their final destinations, as well as the ancillary impact to our citizens due to services being consumed by these individuals.

Sheriffs across our nation have been consistent in our message to the past and current administrations that homeland security, border security and public health/humanitarian issues are first and foremost the priority for all government and we are united in working together to accomplish what is best for our communities.

Gosar says he will continue to work with local Arizona and Federal agencies to obtain a viable plan to keep Arizonans safe during this COVID-19 pandemic.

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