As Washington shirks federal border enforcement role, burden falls to frontline sheriffs

Coalition is working with "the only law enforcement branch elected by the people" to raise awareness about crime, danger at southern border.

Updated: October 29, 2021 - 11:15pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

A coalition of law enforcement agents, mostly comprised of sheriffs combatting cartel violence along the southern border, in cooperation with Border Patrol agents, is working to bring awareness to Americans of the dangers they face because of the Biden administration's hands-off border enforcement policies. 

"A nation without secure borders cannot stand," argues Mark Hager, Army veteran and founder of the U.S. First Defense Coalition. "As a republic, the citizens of the United States are the responsible first line of defense," he says, and sheriffs are "the only law enforcement branch elected by the people," Hager told Just The News. "They are comparable to the grassroots of law enforcement.”

Also a historian and a professor, Hager notes that sheriffs "hold a special place in American history, and especially along our southern border, where they are protecting citizens when the federal government won't.”

The USFDC acts as a liaison with law enforcement to enhance security measures through consultation, research and outreach, addressing the dangerous consequences of illegal immigration or, more recently, what has been described as an invasion by foreign nationals, many of whom have criminal records. 

"Who is going to solve this crime along the border?" retired Sheriff Sigifredo "Sigi" Gonzalez, Jr. asks after serving his sparsely populated Zapata County in Texas for over 18 years. "Who is going to solve the rapes along the border? The U.S. government's not going to do it." 

It's the sheriffs and their deputies — often operating on a shoestring budget and many in poorer counties — who do this day in and day out, argues Gonzalez, who helped found the Texas Sheriff's Border Coalition, which contributed to the creation of the Southwestern Border Sheriff's Coalition in 2006. 

"At the end of the day, the sheriff's office gets the first call," says Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez of Val Verde County, Texas. "We're responding no matter what." 

When something goes wrong in his county, residents "don't call the FBI," he says. "They don't call the National Park Service. They call the sheriff's office."

Despite the influx of illegal crossings into his county, his priority continues to be responding to the daily needs of his residents, Martinez told Just The News. Grants have enabled deputies to work overtime to help at the border, but the border has opened up into the county, and his deputies are dealing with increased crime like he's never seen in his entire law enforcement career spanning over 40 years, he said.

The coalition has been working largely behind the scenes to help share border security information with law enforcement, military veterans, border residents, and patriotic-minded citizens, who in 2010 began to speak out about policy decisions being made in Washington, D.C. that they viewed as putting American lives in danger. But it also produces reports available to the public at ContinueTheMission.net.

The sheriffs' offices have been operating for decades underfunded and outgunned, dealing with border issues, which isn't the primary mission of their job, residents note. And while immigration is a federal issue, border communities have been left to contend with the consequences of failed national policies, bearing the brunt of cartel violence and crime.

Sheriffs in general "are supposed to be dealing with civil disputes," Cochise County, Ariz., rancher Ed Ashurts says. "Instead, they are having to do the federal government's job that politicians in Washington, D.C., refuse to deal with."

Hager has conducted extensive research related to national security and the movement of transnational drug cartels — without the aid of federal agencies — working directly with local law enforcement on the ground in the majority of the lower 48 states.

After producing two short films in 2011 and 2012 about the effects of illegal immigration in Cochise County, the USFDC grew and produced a documentary in 2014 called "The Border States of America." 

 "American citizens living along our Southern Border are trying to make a living while watching their grazing areas being burned, fences destroyed, bodies found abandoned, and narcotics destroying lives in every community, city, and state, as a result of illegal immigration," Hager says. "As a veteran, I'm witnessing the very destruction of a nation that I volunteered to defend."

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