Controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio isn't buying Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano's claims that the U.S.-Mexico border is safer.
|Sheriff Joe Arpaio
So Arpaio has announced the launch of one of the largest crime suppression sweeps in Arizona's history, “Operation Desert Sky,” targeting drug-smugglers using desert corridors in his county.
The sweep will include the use of 30 aircraft patrolling for at least 30 days, armed posse members, drug-sniffing dogs, and SWAT teams equipped with M-16s.
“I don’t go along with the theory that the border is more secure than ever before,” said Arpaio, whose Maricopa County includes the Phoenix area, refuting claims by federal officials that crime along the Mexican border has dropped.
His assertion is backed by the nonprofit Center for Immigration Studies' Mark Krikorian who told Newsmax that Napolitano's statements are "political spin," and her defense of administration policies along the border is becoming “something of a laughing stock.”
Under Arpaio's plan, airborne spotters will report suspicious activity to deputies on the ground.
“Given the level of danger posed by the smugglers, deputies and qualified armed posse volunteers including the SWAT team will be equipped to respond on the ground with M-16s and other firearms including the Sheriff’s 50-caliber machine gun,” Arpaio, who has been called “America’s toughest sheriff,” said in a statement.
The operation follows the recent arrests of 207 illegal immigrants in the county and the seizure of some 36,000 pounds of marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamines in the past year.
Napolitano said last week that security on the southern U.S. border "is better now than it ever has been."
But drug traffickers have now been using sophisticated technology to elude detection, including radio transponders installed in Arizona mountain ranges and solar-powered radios in the desert.
Lt. Steve Bailey, a Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy, said about the operation: “Isn’t it easier to go down here and get [drugs] on the road versus getting them after they’ve come into town?”
Arpaio's actions have riled some.
Human rights activist Salvador Reza told the Arizona Republic that the operation “will spend taxpayer dollars to put 30 pilots in the air and put everyone at risk by arming vigilantes with M-16s and machine guns, according to reports.”
But Arpaio said the operation will be funded from the $1.5 million the Arizona legislature has allotted to fight illegal immigration, and pointed out that posse members are unpaid volunteers.
Those volunteers are putting their life on the line, Arpaio noted, adding: “It’s a dangerous world out there.”
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