Published February 16, 2011
An outspoken Arizona sheriff has responded to a letter from the mayors of three border cities who asked him to tone down his comments on border security problems, saying, "feel free to 'drink the Kool-Aid'" of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke and President Obama.
In a letter dated Feb. 14, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said his jurisdiction is the "number one pass through county" nationwide for smuggling people and drugs.
"The threat from an unsecured border is real, where 241,000 illegals were apprehended last year by the border patrol and an additional 400,000 got away just in Arizona alone!" the letter reads. "These are failing grades by anyone's score card."
Babeu's letter is in response to a Feb. 9 letter he received from the mayors of Nogales, San Luis and Douglas that asked him not to "cultivate a culture of fear" regarding border security.
"While your misstatements about efforts to keep communities along the U.S.-Mexico border may keep national media coming to Arizona, at the same time your consistent inaccuracies hurt cities and towns like ours by causing those who live and travel to the border to fear for their safety when in our communities," reads the letter signed by Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino, San Luis Mayor Juan Escamilla and Douglas Mayor Michael Gomez.
The letter to Babeu acknowledged "more work to do" along the 2,000-mile border, but cited significant progress being made daily and additional forthcoming efforts by federal authorities to strengthen security.
"The facts show that violent crime is down or remains flat in our border region as we are sure it is in your area as well," the mayors' letter continued. "In 2002, it peaked at 742 per 100,000 residents, but has since drastically dropped to 219 per 100,000 in 2009 (per the FBI Uniform Crime Reports Program)."
The letter also called on Babeu to focus on "building strong relationships" with local, state and federal governments to further secure the nation's border with Mexico.
"We say as one voice, 'Creating panic where only vigilance is warranted helps nobody,'" the letter concludes.
Babeu, however, cited a rise in the amount of marijuana seized in his county, vehicle pursuits and calls to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2010 compared to those figures four years ago. In 2007, for example, 28,093 pounds of marijuana was seized in Pinal County, compared to 44,819 in 2010. Likewise, the number of vehicle pursuits in the country reached 340 last year, up from 142 in 2007.
"Feel free to 'drink the Kool-Aid' of Janet Napolitano, Dennis Burke and Barak [sic] Obama all day long, yet this threat to America remains, until our border is secured," Babeu's letter continued. "Their agenda is clear -- they want 'immigration reform' and must convince the public that everything is just fine."
Babeu recommends implementing a 10-point border security plan announced last April by Republican Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl. He also took issue with the mayors' attempt to begin a discussion on the issue.
"If your intent was to establish dialogue with me, you would have called, or at least waited for your letter to arrive by mail at my office, prior to releasing it to the media," Babeu's letter concludes. "You have done the very thing they accuse me of doing. I do not represent you, or the citizens of your community, yet I do represent the nearly 400,000 citizens of my county and the viewpoint of the solid majority of Arizonans, who laugh at Secretary Napolitano's suggestion that our border is more secure than ever."
Douglass Mayor Gomez responded late Wednesday by saying that Babeu "misses the point."
"No one is against border security or for drug/human trafficking," Gomez said in a written statement. "It is bad news to be predicting gun battles. He should appreciate our city’s law enforcement in preserving a peaceful environment at our bi-national border cities."
In an interview with FoxNews.com, Babeu said he has recently increased enforcement near the border with "constant patrols" by SWAT team officers armed with AR-15s and night vision goggles.
"I'm sending out deputies to meet these armed cartel members," Babeu said Wednesday. "And we will not use less than lethal force."
Babeu said the letter he received from the three mayors was an attempt to silence his stance on border security overall, rather than how he advocates for improving it.
"They want us to sit and shut up," he said. "Well, that's not going to happen. This isn't a time to sit on our hands and ignore the issue. It's a time for action."