TUCSON, Ariz - Pima County Supervisors reversed an earlier vote to reject $1.4 Million dollars in federal’s border security grants and accepted the money after all.
Supervisor Ramon Valadez changed his no vote to yes to accept the Federal grants from Operation Stonegarden. Valadez required conditions to review how the grant is used and created a commission to explore allegations that Pima Sheriffs Deputies use racial profiling to decide who to pull over on traffic stops and who to refer to Border Patrol for immigration violations.
The vote came after about three and a half hours of public comments and debate by the Supervisors. More than 50 people signed up to speak.
Most speakers criticized border enforcement. Speakers like Cesar Aguirre say they're victims of racial profiling and say grants that lead Pima Sheriff's deputies to cooperate with Border Patrol make things worse.
Aguirre says, “Every time I go visit my parents I get pulled over by the Pima County Sheriffs. It's always some little random thing why they pulled me over and every time
they ask me if they can search my vehicle. Every time they ask me if I have drugs and I have a gun, even if I have my kids in the car."
Sheriff Mark Napier says his deputies do not proactively do Federal immigration enforcement but do use the Federal funds to enforce state laws against drug and human trafficking. The money covers overtime and equipment. People who favor the grants say they help pay to put deputies where they help protect people in remote areas.
Brad Johns told Supervisors: “It's my belief that the loss of this funding would be a serious risk for the safety of the Pima County community. That's all of us."
Supervisor Ramon Valadez said he originally voted to reject the grant because he did not feel he had enough detail on how the money is used.
Sheriff Napier says the law requires deputies to respond to people who break state laws near the border but without the grants there will be no Federal money to help cover the costs.
Supervisor Valadez says, “We're stuck in a really horrible situation where like the sheriff just responded, they have to respond. We've been asking for money to offset some of the costs of being a border county. We don't agree with the immigration policy that we currently have but we're stuck with it because, again, the people that we hired haven't changed the law like they're supposed to."
Valadez says he understands fears about racial profiling. One of his conditions to vote yes was creating a commission to investigate profiling claims.