As the government shutdown nears its fifth week, border sheriffs are saying “the wall” has become a lightning rod of division and a sound bite that constrains talks on securing the border.
“The term ‘the wall’ gets in the way a lot. It has become this semantic game of what is a wall,” said Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier, a Republican.
“Let’s talk about border security, which part of it will be physical barriers, part of that will be technology and part of that will be human resources,” he said.
Those, along with better technology and staffing at ports of entry, are the main points of a new, three-page statement released by the Southwestern Border Sheriff’s Coalition. Napier said he authored it on behalf of 31 sheriffs in four southern border states.
Napier was among a group of law enforcement officials and others who spoke to President Trump during a conference call Wednesday. He’s also talked to lawmakers in Arizona and nationally about the issue, including “a few Democrats,” he said, “but not as many as I would like.”
In interviews this week, Arizona’s Republican border sheriffs wouldn’t clearly state whether they supported the president’s position to continue the shutdown until congressional Democrats agree to his request for $5.7 billion for 234 miles of new steel barriers.
“There’s enough blame to go around,” said Napier. “The Democrats desperately want to win, the president desperately wants to win. But who should win is not the Republicans or the Democrats, but the American people.”
Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot, also a Republican, said he gives kudos to Trump. “I would imagine the president is standing tall because he’s standing tall for the boots on the ground who are saying this is what we need to adequately do our job,” he said. “I know that law enforcement appreciate the fact he’s standing up and holding Congress accountable.”
But for Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada, the lone Democrat among Arizona’s border sheriffs, “it’s so ludicrous that everything is hinging on that magical wall,” he said. “It’s completely absurd, reckless and of no common sense. There are places where it would be practical, an option, but will it be the solution? No.”