This week Arizona 360 took a closer look at border-related issues. On the heels of a visit from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, we wanted to get a better sense of what everyday life looks like for people whose livelihoods are rooted in this region.
We assembled a panel of long-time residents and leaders from Santa Cruz and Pima counties who represent their ranching and business communities. At the historic Lowe House in Tubac they discussed the region's portrayal in the media, enforcement strategies from Border Patrol and solutions they believe could curtail illegal immigration and drug smuggling.
Participants: Olivia Ainza-Kramer, president & CEO, Nogales-Santa Cruz Co. Chamber of Commerce Bruce Bracker (D), Santa Cruz County supervisor Gary Brasher, realtor and developer Jim Patterson, president, Santa Cruz Valley Citizens Council Stewart Loew, owner, Agua Linda Farm Sue Chilton, owner, Chilton Ranch
The same day Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen spoke about cracking down on illegal immigration while touring the border in Nogales, Arizona, Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva traveled to Nogales, Sonora, to meet families seeking asylum at the port. Both had contrasting messages about what's at stake.
At a news conference at the border, Nielsen said her agency would refer all illegal Southwest border crossings for prosecution, with no exceptions for families with children.
"If you make a false immigration claim we will prosecute you. The lawlessness has to end," Nielsen said. She clarified that children separated from their parents would go into the custody of Health and Human Services. Grijalva objected to the strategy.
"The fact remains: We dehumanize these people and their kids if we make this all about enforcement only," Grijalva said.
Arizona 360 learned more about the existing challenges with border enforcement from Rodolfo Karisch, chief patrol agent of the Border Patrol Tucson Sector. Karisch oversees more than 3,600 agents.
"We have agents on a daily basis who go out into these mountains to patrol out there on foot. In certain areas we have to insert them by helicopters because there's no road," Karisch said. "So the danger always going to be there."
Karisch described his sector as having "fragile" control over the region.