TUCSON, Ariz. - Whether Pima County Sheriff should cooperate with federal immigration officials dominated another Pima County Supervisors meeting Tuesday.
Since February Supervisors have debated whether to let the Sheriff accept 1.4 million dollars in Federal funds to reimburse for overtime and equipment used when deputies do work towards border security.
Immigration has become even more contentious since then and that led supervisors to delay action again.
More than 30 people spoke to supervisors angry over more aggressive Federal immigration policies including those that have separated families from their children.
They say accepting money from the Federal program called Operation Stonegarden will make Pima deputies complicit with policies they want stopped.
John Denker said, “ICE as presently constituted, they’re not the good guys. They break up families of asylum seekers. They put babies in cages. Border Patrol is in dire need of adult supervision. This rubs off the wrong way. It doesn’t make Border Patrol good. It makes the Pima County Sheriffs bad.’
Sheriff Napier told supervisors, county residents have benefited from Stonegarden because it helps pay for more deputy presence in remote areas. He says if his department does not accept Stonegarden grants, Federal agencies will not regard Pima County as a partner to be paid attention to.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Napier: “What’s an example of how you might use that influence? What sort of exchange might you have?”
Napier: “For example just a week ago I sat across from Secretary Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security and we have her ear because she listens to us now because we are a strategic partner. We are the largest border county in the United States and if we are not a strategic partner the reason to listen to our concerns about additional funding which we need desperately in Pima County.“
Supervisors voted three to two to wait until the first meeting of next month to decide on the grant. That’s to allow time for a citizens commission to review how the sheriff relates to CBP.