The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to allow President Donald Trump to erect a border wall and pay for it with defense funds, is one of the topics that will be discussed at a Cochise County Sheriff’s roundtable Wednesday.
The session — described as a classroom setting of sorts by Sheriff Mark Dannels — will include a handful of legislators and/or legislative aides from Arizona and other states and possibly some U.S. Customs and Border Patrol supervisors and agents.
Dannels, who is chairman of the National Sheriffs’ Association Border Security Committee, as well as an appointed member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council in Washington D.C., said he is pleased about the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling, issued late Friday.
“I’m glad to hear that,” the sheriff said Monday. “Securing our borders contributes to the quality of life in our community.”
The roundtable discussion — from 7 to 9 a.m. at the Sheriff’s Office Range House — will be a “Congressional presentation on our local initiatives to secure the border,” Dannels said.
At another roundtable event in June, Dannels told the Herald/Review that Cochise County has been a frontline for drugs and smuggling for many years, but that the Southeastern Arizona Border Regional Enforcement task force (SABRE), a large camera surveillance system, and other local efforts, have almost halted drug smuggling in the county since 2015. A story featured on Arizona Public Radio last week mentioned that Mexican drug cartel bosses are skirting around the Cochise border for fear their drug emissaries will be nabbed and prosecuted locally.
The Supreme Court’s decision late Friday removes a stay issued by a lower appeals court that initially blocked the Trump administration from constructing six wall projects in New Mexico, Arizona and California. That would include a section within the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gillam ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union in late June. The ACLU represented the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition.
A July 25 story on National Public Radio’s The Buzz, stated that “most of the lawsuits deal with the potential environmental impacts of extending and replacing border fencing in Southern Arizona. The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit almost immediately after the proposal was released.”
“We are absolutely, fundamentally opposed to this project because of the extreme amount of environmental devastation it would cause,” Laiken Jordahl, borderlands campaigner for the conservation group, told The Buzz.
Jordahl also mentioned that construction of a wall would hurt the flow of the San Pedro River. According to the Nature Conservancy, the San Pedro River is one of only two major rivers that flow north out of Mexico into the United States and is one of the last large undammed rivers in the Southwest. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the only justice to issue an opinion, also mentioned potential harm to the environment in his writing.
Dannels disagreed with that assessment, saying that there is already “existing wall” along certain portions of the southwest that has been “respectful to the environment.”
“I think we need to be balanced on how we approach this,” the sheriff said. “We’ve been very good to our lands and I don’t see that changing in the future.”