An Arizona county’s supervisory board voted last week to reject more than $1 million in federal money to help protect the border.
The stated reason for this decision? The administration of President Donald Trump.
In a 3-2 vote that fell along party lines, the Pima County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday not to accept the money, which adds up to roughly $1.4 million.
The money, part of the Operation Stonegarden grant, was supposed to be used to pay overtime for border agents, as well as to “buy equipment to coordinate efforts with federal agencies to improve border security,” according to The Arizona Daily Star.
The three Democrats on the board — Richard Elías, Sharon Bronson and Ramón Valadez — all voted to reject the money, though Republicans Steve Christy and Ally Miller both disagreed.
In explaining his vote, Elías cited concern with the changes in immigration enforcement that he has seen in the county since Trump became president.
“It’s a new deal out there at the border and the board is concerned with having our sheriffs become more involved in working on federal immigration law,” he said.
“Frankly, we have a different administration in the White House and we’ve seen a lot of change in the way ICE and the Border Patrol do business here in the borderlands.”
In the more than 10 years since Pima County started accepting the Stonegarden grant, the money has never been rejected until now, The Daily Star reported, citing sheriff’s department officials and a spokesperson from the Arizona Department of Homeland Security.
Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier expressed his disappointment over Tuesday’s vote, emphasizing that the money helps his department work with federal agencies to maintain public safety.
“The funds are directed at the interdiction of drug and human trafficking organizations in Pima County and it allows us to work more effectively with our federal partners,” Napier said.
Had the money been accepted, about $1.19 million would have gone toward mileage and overtime. About $238,000 would have been spent on “satellite data equipment and a wireless transmission device,” according to The Star.
But Elías said he was concerned that this equipment could lead to the U.S.-Mexico border being militarized even more than it is right now.
“I definitely want them to have the tools they need, but there’s a limit to it,” he said.
From 2008 to 2016, the federal government set aside more than $530 million for the Stonegarden program. In 2017, Arizona’s four border counties received a total of $11.8 million in Stonegarden money.
Pima County itself shares a border with Mexico that is nearly 125 miles long. Included along this shared border is a busy drug trafficking corridor, Napier said.
The Stonegarden program has been criticized in the past for permitting fraud and waste, though Christy — one of two Republicans on the county’s advisory board — noted that losing the money will hurt the sheriff’s department.
“The sheriff department has come to rely on this grant, based on past acceptance, and suddenly it’s determined by the board it is no longer going to be accepted,” he said.
“It strains the sheriff’s department ability to effectively conduct law enforcement in our country,” he added.
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