(NewsNation) — More than 926 border-related arrests have been made in Cochise County since January.
It’s statistics like these that spurred the creation of a Border Interdiction Unit for Cochise County’s Sheriff’s Office. According to local news station KOLD, the unit was started in 2010 to disrupt criminal activity in border areas that affect Cochise County residents.
The team made nearly 18 arrests in eight days. NewsNation’s Ali Bradley was able to go on a ride-along with them, and she observed as the sheriff and other team members made multiple stops on suspicions of smuggling.
Sheriff Mark Dannels said the team watches who and what is coming across the border through covert operations.
Some tell-tale signs of smugglers he said the team looks for are drivers speeding, or temporary tags.
“We actually have vehicles, eyes and ears on the border,” Dannels said.
If the smugglers are able to get through Cochise County, Dannels said, the odds of them being captured diminish.
“It’s a game of greed. … It’s all about how much money you can make here by a border that’s not secure — that’s what we’re addressing out here every day,” he said.
Dannels said his department has encountered 400 victims of border-related crimes since January. That includes instances such as if a civilian is hit by a smuggler during a pursuit, or if someone is put at risk by being placed in the trunk of a car while evading law enforcement.
Cochise County officials aren’t alone in feeling like there’s a problem at the border. NewsNation has previously reported on officials’ concerns about what they say are a record number of migrant encounters at the southern border this year. Immigration and border security has also become a political issue for both sides of the aisle, especially amid midterm elections.
To fix this, Andrew Seeley, president of the nonpartisan think tank Migration Policy Institute, said more legal pathways for people to come in, especially from Central America, are needed.
“We need an asylum system that works at the border so we can make determinations about who has protection needs and needs to come in, and who can be returned home,” he said on NewsNation’s “Morning in America.” “We also need to be working with these countries on making sure that people are staying. There are some countries that people are leaving because circumstances have gotten fairly extreme.”