Joe Arpaio: Politicians Too Often Forget the Connection Between Weak Borders and Drugs


There is a strong drug connection between the flow of illegal drugs coming into the U.S. and our weak southern border that politicians like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others seem to ignore.

That is why I appreciate President Donald Trump putting the issue front and center in the current debate over funding a border wall or barrier.

My views on the matter are informed by over 50 years of serving in law enforcement, including 24 years as Maricopa County Sheriff in the border state of Arizona and over two decades prior to that with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Among my assignments with the DEA was a four-year stint in Mexico City in the early 1970s, where I was the regional director working closely with the Mexican government to stem the flow of illegal drugs crossing the border.

Just before I was promoted to that position, I helped oversee Operation Intercept in 1969, during which we nearly shut down the border in a push to stop the flow of marijuana and other contraband coming into the U.S.

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For two weeks we cracked down, bringing border crossings almost to a standstill and backing up traffic all the way to Mexico City it seemed.

The Mexican government got the message that we were serious, and out of that came Operation Cooperation between the United States, Mexico and Canada, addressing the issue of drug trafficking. The three nations ended up doing some great work together during those years.

One myth that I’d like to debunk — which has been espoused by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others during the shutdown — is that if we want to address cross border drug trafficking, walls will not work, and instead we need to focus on the ports of entry.

Democratic politicians arguing against the wall will cite statistics like 90 percent of all drug interdiction at the border happens at the ports of entry.

Do you think weak borders contribute to a drug crisis?

That really says nothing about the drugs that Border Patrol agents never have the chance to confiscate because they came across the border where there is no wall.

I can’t tell you how many arrests my deputies made of those illegally in our country transporting drugs across the desert.

If anybody doesn’t like the idea of constructing more and better border barriers, I always question them, “What about the drugs?”

The drug crisis could not be clearer.

I predicted three years ago that heroin was coming back strong, and it has, joining with other opioids to ravage the lives of too many of our fellow Americans.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, there were over 47,000 drug overdose deaths involving opioids in 2017.

During his Oval Office address on border security last week, President Trump said, “Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl.”

He continued, “Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border. More Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War.”

That toll is way too high. Obviously, one death is sad, but tens of thousands is a tragedy. This should not be a Republican or Democrat issue.

I truly believe one of the best steps we can take if we want to start addressing the current drug crisis is hit the supply chain hard, and part of that effort means building a strong border wall!

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Known as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Joe Arpaio had a long and decorated career in law enforcement before being elected sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, in 1992. He is now a Special Contributor to The Western Journal.
Known as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Joe Arpaio had a long and decorated career in law enforcement before being elected to Sheriff of Maricopa County in 1992.

After serving in the U.S. Army from 1950 to 1953, and as a Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, NV, police officer, Arpaio went on to build a law enforcement career as a federal narcotics agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). For almost a decade, Arpaio was stationed in foreign countries where he headed the DEA combatting the drug trade in which, even by today’s standards, are highly volatile and dangerous in Turkey, the Middle East, Mexico and Central and South America. He was also a diplomatic attaché. In his last years with the DEA, Arpaio also gained invaluable expertise on border issues and enforcement as the head of the DEA in the border states of Arizona and Texas. He concluded his remarkable federal career as head of the DEA for Arizona.

In 1992, Arpaio successfully campaigned to become the Sheriff of Maricopa County, becoming the head of the nation’s third largest Sheriff’s Office which employs over 3,400 people. He served an unprecedented six 4-year terms. During his tenure as Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arpaio consistently earned high public approval ratings.

In August, 1993, he started the nation’s largest Tent City for convicted inmates. Two thousand convicted men and women serve their sentences in a canvas incarceration compound. It was here that Arpaio launched his get-tough policies for inmates. He banned smoking, coffee, movies, pornographic magazines, and unrestricted TV in all jails. It is a remarkable success story that has attracted the attention of government officials, presidential candidates, and media worldwide.

Of equal success and notoriety were his chain gangs, which contributed thousands of dollars of free labor to the community by picking up litter, painting over graffiti and burying the indigent in the county cemetery.

Another program Arpaio was very well known for is the pink underwear he made all inmates wear. Years ago, when the Sheriff learned that inmates were stealing jailhouse white boxers, Arpaio had all inmate underwear dyed pink for better inventory control.

As chief law enforcement officer for the county, Arpaio continued to reduce crime with hard-hitting enforcement methods. He began an all-volunteer posse of 3,000 members, making it the nation’s largest volunteer posse. Posse men and women help in search and rescue and other traditional police work as well as in special operations like rounding up deadbeat parents, fighting prostitution, patrolling malls during holidays, and investigating animal cruelty complaints. The posse’s contributions are invaluable and essentially free to taxpayers.

In addition to these tough measures, the Sheriff launched rehabilitative programs like “Hard Knocks High,” the only accredited high school under a Sheriff in an American jail, and ALPHA, an anti-substance-abuse program that has greatly reduced recidivism.

He is now a Special Contributor to The Western Journal.

On a personal note, Sheriff Arpaio and his wife Ava have been married for over 56 years and have two children, both residing in the Phoenix area. The Arpaios have four grandchildren.
Topics of Expertise
Drug Enforcement, Law Enforcement, Politics