San Antonio Chapter President Don Tijerina represented HAPCOA on a Southwest Border visit, June 2-6, 2019, to the Arizona Border coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Office of State and Local Law Enforcement (OSLLE). The objective was to bring together stakeholders from various national law enforcement associations to provide an overview of different challenges and issues faced by three Arizona border sheriffs and federal law enforcement.  This was in response to ongoing concerns impacting public safety, transnational criminal activity, and human tragedy. The goal was to educate and expose the law enforcement partners to the raw elements and complexity of borders issues and to generate ideas on how the associations could become partners and resources in the future.

Federal Agencies and National Law Enforcement Associations represented:

  • DHS-Office of Partnership and Engagement (OPE); Office for State and Local Law Enforcement (OSLLE)
  • FOP, NALEA, IACP, MCCA, MCSA, PERF, NAPO, NDAA, NOBLE, NAACP & HAPCOA

The group participated in several events along the southern border of Arizona.  The meetings and/or tours were facilitated by Yuma County Sheriff’s Office, Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, Pima County Sheriff’s Office, Yuma Sector Border Patrol, and the Tucson Sector Border Patrol. Each respective organization provided a detailed overview of their daily operation and the multifaceted challenges they face on a day to day basis. It is important to acknowledge that each organization has its own unique issues and challenges. Law enforcement stakeholders were highly engaged, as ideas were formulated and discussed, relationships were established, and inequities were recognized. 

The Sheriffs and federal partners’ challenges differ, based numerous factors: case load, geographical affect, legal boundaries, legal authority and available resources. They experienced different challenges; however, the underlying cause is linked to border security, migration issues, transnational crime, human tragedy, and public safety concerns.

The group was also able to meet with some border community representatives and hear their concerns on issues. The main negative issue expressed was that federal agencies do not seek their input or listen to them. The community representatives in attendance did not express similar opinions regarding local law enforcement. 

Overall, it was very apparent that Border Security is a complex task with no simple or quick solutions. Our law enforcement personnel, already performing an often thankless job, are now being caught in the middle of a political firestorm with seemingly no end in sight. The group recognized the importance of continuing the dialogue of all stakeholders and our hosts advised they would attempt to coordinate a meeting for future follow-up.