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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Local News

Sheriff Dever to testify on Capitol Hill about border security

By Bill Hess
Monday, February 27, 2006 3:03 AM MST

Herald/ Review

BISBEE — More than once Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever has been called to Washington, D.C., to testify before congressional committees about border problems.

Today the sheriff is heading to the East Coast, where he will testify before two committees — one in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, and the other in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.

What senators and representatives will hear is more of the same, more of what he told members of Congress in 1997, and that is the nation’s immigration and border strategies are failing, Dever said Sunday.

While it is expected that both committees want to know how dangerous the border has become for those involved in law enforcement and citizens living near the international boundary with Mexico, the sheriff said he will tell the members “if anything it’s worse.”

Those engaged in illegal activities, people and drug smuggling operations are more likely to fight back against law enforcement, he said.

Years ago when law enforcement came upon people or drug smuggling, the culprits would flee back into Mexico, but no longer, Dever said.

“Violence has increased,” he said

Smugglers have tried to crash into law enforcement vehicles or if they decide to flee they do so “behind gunfire,” the sheriff said.

Fortunately, none of the deputies have been shot, although patrol vehicles have been damaged in deliberate crashes, he said.

Last week while attending a Western States Sheriff Association meeting, Dever was approached about testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Immigration, chaired by U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind.

Shortly after that, he got a call from Arizona Republican U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl’s staff seeking his testimony before the subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims, chaired by Kyl on Thursday.

Both hearings center around ways to find federal strategies to end border violence, the sheriff said.

And, the testimony by Dever and others in nonfederal government law enforcement has the support of the National Sheriffs Association.

The two events will be his fourth and fifth appearances before congressional committees.

What the senators and representatives will hear from him is that federal strategies along the border have caused most of the problems because U.S. government agencies have failed and continue to fail by not including local law enforcement input before taking actions.

In 1987, the chief of the U.S Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector promised that he would stop the flow of narcotics, illegal immigrants, terrorists and other criminals from crossing into the United States through Mexico’s border with Arizona.

“That was almost 20 years ago, and it still hasn’t happened. That’s what I’m going to tell them again,” Dever said

When the Border Patrol executed a strategy of tightening the border in California and West Texas, illegal activity in Arizona dramatically increased, he said.

The federal government calls such an increase “an unintentional consequence,” the sheriff said.

But, every federal border plan or strategy has a local impact “by creating additional pressure for us,” he added.

Again, the senators and representatives listening to him at the hearings will hear another plea for federal agencies to bring in local law enforcement into the planning stages before a strategy is put into concrete, Denver said.

By doing that, his department and other law enforcement agencies in Arizona, as well as those in California, New Mexico and Texas, will be able to anticipate some problems that may come up, he said.

It’s better to know up front what might happen “instead of being blindsided,” Dever said.

Herald/Review senior reporter Bill Hess can be reached at 515-4615, or by e-mail at