EXCLUSIVE: Sheriff Babeu: It’s ‘An Outrage’ Obama Stopped Building Border Fence
By the time Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, according to the Justice Department, only 108 miles of the 262-mile-long Arizona portion of the 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border had been fenced.
“We shouldn’t be fighting this battle in the interior. We should be fighting it directly on our international border,” Babeu said in an "Online With Terry Jeffrey" interview. “And it’s an outrage that our own federal government stopped building the fence.”
Babeu, whose southern Arizona county sits astride major drug-and-alien-smuggling routes running north from Mexico, has joined with Sheriff Larry Dever of Cochise County, Ariz., and Arizona’s two U.S. senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, to push a 10-point plan for securing the border. The plan includes, among other provisions, completing the necessary border fencing, deploying 3,000 National Guard troops to cover just the Arizona stretch of the border, and deploying significantly more surveillance aircraft than are currently used to patrol the border.
Babeu, who is also a major in the Army National Guard and who did a tour in Iraq, formerly commanded Task Force Yuma, a deployment of 700 Army and Air Force National Guard troops who worked with the Border Patrol to secure one segment of the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.
CNSNews.com asked Babeu about a 2009 report from the National Drug Intelligence Center, an element of the Obama Justice Department, that described the Arizona border as “underprotected,” “especially conducive to large-scale drug smuggling,” and a place where “few barriers exist … to impede drug traffickers, chiefly Mexican DTOs [Drug Trafficking Organizations], from smuggling illigicit drug shipments into the United States from Mexico.”
“That sounds pretty accurate to me,” Babeu said. “I just wish that the top leaders would read it and take heed, because it doesn’t match up not only with their policy, it doesn’t match up with, in fact, their actions and enforcement policies. Because we live here, we understand this better than anybody. And this in fact is going on.”
Babeu said he is confident that the border can be secured, but argued the Obama administration’s decisions not to build the border fence and to follow a catch-and-release policy with illegal aliens have been counter-productive. Recent steps the administration has taken regarding the border, including the deployment of 520 National Guard troops in Arizona, Babeu indicated, were insufficient and amounted to ineffective pre-election posturing.
“Build the double-barrier fence and complete it,” said Babeu. “I’m a combat engineer in the Army, that’s part of my job. I have had 20 years now. I don’t speak for the Army, but I was down in Yuma. I was a tactical commander for 400 to 700 active duty soldiers and airmen, and we secured that border, supporting our heroes in the Border Patrol. Ninety-five percent reduction in illegal entries. And to this date, there’s not one soldier there, and why is that? It’s because we completed the double-barrier fence and they have full enforcement. No more catch-and-release. But catch-and-release is alive and well throughout the rest of the state. And the fence isn’t built. Obama stopped the construction. So it’s all this political talk. They’re deploying only 520 soldiers to Arizona when we need 3,000 armed soldiers. And they’re deploying right before the November election. So you don’t have to be a detective to figure this one out.’
President George W. Bush signed the “Secure Fence Act” in October 26, 2006. This law specifically directed that “the Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide for least 2 layers of reinforced fencing, the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors” along 700 miles of the 2000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border.
As of this April, according to the Government Accountability Office, the government had only constructed 347 miles of what it calls “pedestrian fencing.” This fencing, most of which is single-layered, “is designed to prevent people on foot from crossing the border,” according to the GAO. Currently, the administration plans to build a total of 367 miles of such pedestrian fencing.
Additionally, as of April, the government had built 299 miles of what it calls “vehicle fencing” along the border. This fencing, according to the GAO, “consists of physical barriers meant to stop the entry of vehicles.” It often is made of steel beams embedded in ground. This type of fencing is not intended to stop pedestrians.
“As of April 2010,” the GAO reported, “CBP [Customs and Border Protection] had completed 646 of the 652 miles of fencing it committed to deploy along the southwest border. CBP plans to have the remaining 6 miles of this baseline completed by December 2010, pending resolution of litigation for portions of property along the border. Also, CBP plans to construct an additional 14 miles of pedestrian fencing in the Rio Grande Valley Sector by September 2010.” The 652 miles of total fencing now slated to be built, includes only 367 miles of "pedestrian fencing."
The 700 miles of double-layered reinforced fencing with roads and lighting that was envisioned by the Secure Fence Act has not been built.
View the full interview with Sheriff Paul Babeu here:
Transcript of “Online With Terry Jeffrey” interview with Sheriff Paul Babeu:
Terry Jeffrey: Welcome to this edition of Online with Terry Jeffrey. Our guest today is Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Ariz. Pinal County is not contiguous with the border, but it is in South-central Arizona and it has been heavily impacted by the problem with illegal immigration and lack of security on the border. Sheriff Babeu, thanks for joining us today, I greatly appreciate it.
Sheriff Paul Babeu: Terry, happy to be here with you. Thank you.
Jeffrey: What I’d like to do is start out: I want to talk to you a little bit about some information that was put out by Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department. There’s an element of the Justice Department called the National Drug Intelligence Center and periodically they publish reports about various areas around the country that they call High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. They have one in Arizona that does in fact include your county. Let me read you something that Eric Holder’s Justice Department reported in their most recent report on your area which came out in March 2009. They said, quote:
“Large amounts of illicit drugs are smuggled into the area from Mexico, and bulk cash is transported from the area into Mexico. These trafficking activities are facilitated by several factors unique to the region, including the continuing economic and population growth in Arizona’s two primary drug markets (Phoenix and Tucson), the highways that connect major metropolitan areas in Arizona with major illicit drug source areas in Mexico, and a remote, largely underprotected border”—that is the word of Holder’s Justice Department—“underprotected border area between Arizona’s ports of entry.”
“Vast stretches of remote, sparsely populated border areas are located within the HIDTA region; these areas are especially conducive to large-scale drug smuggling. By the end of January 2009, 108 miles of the 262-mile shared border between Arizona and Mexico will have some type of fencing. However, few physical barriers exist in border areas between POEs, particularly in the West Desert area of the U.S. Border Patrol Tucson Sector, to impede drug traffickers, chiefly Mexican DTOs, from smuggling illicit drug shipments into the United States from Mexico.”
Do you agree with General Holder’s Justice Department’s description of the border south of where you are?
Babeu: That sounds pretty accurate to me. I just wish that the top leaders would read it and take heed, because it doesn’t match up not only with their policy, it doesn’t match up with, in fact, their actions and enforcement policies. Because we live here, we understand this better than anybody. And this in fact is going on. When I became sheriff two years ago, we brought the fight to the drug smugglers. And just two weeks ago we won the HIDTA Award for the entire state, and ironic enough, guess who gave it to us? It was the U.S. Attorney’s Office appointed by the Attorney General. So, they’re recognizing our efforts—the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.
We run a multi-agency task force to bring the fight against largely the drug smugglers. And we’ve had historic busts here. There was 1.2, 1.3 million pounds of marijuana that was apprehended last year. There’s dangerous drugs—methamphetamine--because of the constriction of the laws for prescribed drugs here in America because we’ve become smart to it: what the ingredients are and how these criminals obtain them. So they’re being brought from Mexico—black tar heroin, methamphetamine—that is feeding drug addiction here in the United States.
So, there’s billions of dollars that is connected to it. We know that this report is true. Their own Justice Department knows that it is true. Yet we’ve heard time and again that that border’s secure, we’re doing a better job, and all this political speak is a bunch of crap.
Jeffrey: Sheriff, let me just clarify something. You’re saying that General Holder’s Justice Department gave Pinal County, Ariz., an award for what it’s doing to help enforce the laws against drug smugglers in your High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area as defined by them? They awarded you?
Babeu: Let me clarify: We are number one in the entire state of Arizona this past year and it was actually by the U.S. Attorney, who used to be the chief of staff for Janet Napolitano when she was governor of this state. So—
Jeffrey: Pinal County was number one.
Babeu: Here is the irony of this whole thing. That crazy.
But that’s the work that we’re doing here and we need additional help. It’s not a thousand new border patrol agents. They’re building a bureaucracy that’s going to stand and last five and ten years from now. What we want is help to secure the border.
Build the double-barrier fence and complete it. This report pointed that out. I’m a combat engineer in the Army, that’s part of my job. I have had 20 years now. I don’t speak for the Army, but I was down in Yuma. I was a tactical commander for 400 to 700 active duty soldiers and airmen, and we secured that border, supporting our heroes in the Border Patrol. Ninety-five percent reduction in illegal entries. And to this date, there’s not one soldier there, and why is that? It’s because we completed the double barrier fence and they have full enforcement. No more catch-and-release. But catch-and-release is alive and well throughout the rest of the state. And the fence isn’t built. Obama stopped the construction. So it’s all this political talk. They’re deploying only 520 soldiers to Arizona when we need 3,000 armed soldiers. And they’re deploying right before the November election. So you don’t have to be a detective to figure this one out.
Jeffrey: I want to get to the security issue a little deeper in a moment, but something you said strikes me as relevant to Senate Bill 1070, the Arizona bill that would allow local law enforcement to detain people who they have reasonable suspicion might be an illegal alien when they’ve been stopped for another offense. Now, isn’t smuggling heroin or cocaine or marijuana across the border into the United States, isn’t that a federal crime?
Babeu: The last time I checked, yes.
Jeffrey: So, you mean in Pinal County, when some illegal alien drug smuggler is driving through your county committing the federal crime of bringing heroin to people in Phoenix, you actually stop that person?
Babeu: Heck, yeah. We stop all of them and the same with bank robbers.
Jeffrey: Well, aren’t you preempting federal law enforcement when you stop the heroin smugglers coming north?
Babeu: And that’s what’s so outrageous. That here, even the 287(g) program, that’s a federal program asking for help with their local partners in state and county and local law enforcement to be certified as federal agents for immigration law. I have 11 of my deputies who are certified. So, here they form this partnership here. The mixed message: they turn around, fight Arizona, bring us to court and they argue the Supremacy Clause, which says, inherently, it’s our job to enforce immigration. Well, what are you talking about? Because you already have this agreement with us and all local law enforcement to help you do your job, because clearly you can’t do it on your own. We’d like them to, but they can’t.
And so there’s so many mixed messages and it’s all because—not because of the heroes that work in these positions, the men and women who do the job—it’s the people up at the highest levels of the government. And it’s divorced--that policy is divorced from the action that is needed. They’re looking at it purely from a political perspective rather than a public safety matter and a national security threat. Because there’s hundreds of thousands that are coming into America--we don’t know who they are, where they’re coming from, or what their intentions are.
Jeffrey: Now, Sheriff, so you mean to say that if your deputies stop people coming through Pinal County for smuggling heroin and hand them over to federal authorities for federal prosecution, not only is the Obama administration happy with what you’ve done, but President Obama’s U.S. Attorney in Arizona has said, “Thank you for being number one in the state and doing that kind of thing”?
Babeu: Oh yeah, absolutely. We’re number one. We hadn’t been number one before, but, I’m telling you, we went kicking in doors. We have all of this connection. We had a historic bust. We arrested, or put out felony warrants for an arrest, for 33 individuals in Arizona City and Casa Grande area, and we went in—we did surveillance on these folks—and they had an entire DTO, a Drug Trade Organization, that was transporting on foot. A lot of these people were connected to the human smuggling, because put a 40- or 60- or 70-pound backpack on your back, Terry, and that’s your ticket into America. So, these people who try to make like Governor Brewer is crazy because the drug and human smuggling are connected, she’s not far from the truth.
Jeffrey: Well, actually, the Obama administration’s National Drug Intelligence Center Threat Assessment quite specifically says that the alien smugglers operate at the approval of the Drug Trafficking Organizations out of Mexico—that the DTO’s actually have control of the border coming north and alien smugglers are moving forward with, in fact, the acceptance and the approval of the Drug Trafficking Organizations. So, let me ask you then, though: If you were to stop, rather than a heroin smuggler working with the approval of the DTO’s, you were to stop a van full of illegal aliens that was being brought in by an alien smuggling organization, and you tried to enforce federal law that way, the Obama administration objects to that?
Babeu: They object to local law enforcement doing it. However, since I became sheriff, we’re enforcing that law, too, because my deputies, we instructed them: Nobody’s getting away. That either we have our 11 who are certified in 287(g), cross-certified in the federal immigration authority, for them to work it, or more likely, what’s practical for us, is for us to call our friends in the Border Patrol, which we work very well together, here locally—in Casa Grande they have a very large station—and they come out, immediately deploy, and they investigate it. And they take these folks, because it’s not rocket science. It’s usually 10, 20 people in a van or a car, four people in the trunk, and the driver just ran off into the desert. So, we figure out very quickly what we’ve got going on.
Jeffrey: Let me read you another passage from the Obama Justice Department’s report about your High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area including Pinal County. They say, quote:
“Alien smuggling is a concern to law enforcement officials in the Arizona HIDTA region. Some criminal organizations smuggle aliens and gang members into the United States. These particular individuals typically have extensive criminal records and pose a threat, not only to the Arizona HIDTA region but also to communities throughout the United States. Alien smuggling organizations reportedly also smuggle aliens from countries other than Mexico, including special-interest countries.”
Now, there, Sheriff, they have a footnote, and the footnote says, “Special interest countries are those designated by the intelligence community as countries that could export individuals who could bring harm to the United States through terrorism,” unquote.
That’s a direct quote from General Holder’s Justice Department’s Drug Intelligence Center. Do you think that the Obama administration is telling the truth to the American people that there is really a homeland security threat down there at the border and that there really is a risk of people being smuggled in from terrorism-related countries?
Babeu: Again, there’s a disconnect between the actual intel reports, the summaries that you’re reading, and what the administration is saying. The administration says everything is hunky-dory and there’s nothing to worry about. All these people who are screaming, being dramatic out in Arizona and elsewhere don’t know what they’re talking about, and literally link us to try to be some type of a racially-motivated agenda as opposed to truly being concerned about America and our national security. And we know for a fact that these DTO’s and the human smugglers are bringing in violent gang members. We know for a fact the border patrol’s own figure, 17 percent, of those which they apprehend.
Now, there’s two numbers here. Those who they apprehended this past year in Arizona--250,000 just in the Tucson sector—they say that’s a reflection of only 1 out of every 2.6. So, by their own admission, the got-aways, we don’t even know who they are or what criminal record they have. It’s likely to assume that the same 17 percent—if not more—of that population base has a criminal record also already established here in the United States. So these people aren’t just all dishwashers or people who want to landscape. These are the worst of these other societies that are coming to America. Not only OTMs-- Other Than Mexicans--but persons from countries of interest, nation-states, governments, that profess harm against America or literally sponsor terror.
Jeffrey: The same report, sheriff, goes on to say, quote:
“The U.S. Border Patrol Tucson sector reports that Mexican DTO’s are increasingly using alternative routes and less-traveled roads in an attempt to avoid the increasing number of law enforcement patrols. For instance, DTO’s are increasingly using other Arizona highways, including state routes 80, 82, 85, 86, 90 and 92 to transport illicit drug shipments from the border area to Phoenix and Tucson. Recently, law enforcement officials report that Mexican DTO’s have also increased their use of state routes 77, 79 and 60 from Tucson north to I-40 to avoid heavy interdiction efforts along I-10 between Tucson and Flagstaff, Arizona.”
Do any of those roads cross through your county and your jurisdiction?
Babeu: Yes, all the roads you just read come through Pinal County. Now, I’m going to give you in a briefing from the Border Patrol—because there’s four counties in Arizona that border Mexico: Yuma, which is secure, Santa Cruz, Cochise and Pima County. Those are just south of Pinal County. The Border Patrol says—not me saying this—all roads lead to Pinal County. And I can tell you that’s the case, because there’s a 1,000-2,000-plus illegals a day that come through our county, and the trafficking is so immense that where are they going? We couldn’t possibly stop all of this. They’re going to metro Phoenix, and some of them stay and some of them use it as a platform to go to the rest of America.
Now, anybody who’s listening to your broadcast knows, “Well, we see them here. Where did they come from?” Guess what, they probably came through Pinal County at some point.
We shouldn’t be fighting this battle in the interior. We should be fighting it directly on our international border. And it’s an outrage that our own federal government stopped building the fence. All of these people—the majority—are VR (voluntary return). There is no punishment when we catch them. It is catch-and-release, and they’re just sent back. Why wouldn’t they try again the next day? This is what we have to change.
So, all this whole dog and pony show of coming out here with flash cards of what we’re doing at the federal government is a false story. And until we secure the border, we’re never going to end up truly protecting America from probably one of the most important threats that we face today.
Jeffrey: Sheriff, in addition to describing this increase in Drug Trafficking Organizations bringing aliens and drugs across the border, General Holder’s Justice Department also said this has resulted in an increase of targeting of U.S. law enforcement personnel for violence by these folks. Now, this is another direct quote from the Obama Justice Department’s report on your region. Okay, so, quote:
“Within the past year U.S. law enforcement personnel at the border have experienced assaults by rocking, gunfire, Molotov cocktails, vehicular assaults, and physical assaults. Violence directed at law enforcement officers along the border is often intended to deter agents from seizing illicit drug shipments or is used as a diversion to smuggle drug shipments.”
Does that comport with your experience of what’s going on down there?
Babeu: Terry, that’s true. But this report hasn’t captured the increased violence and the tactics that are now being used. There has now been direct threats against law enforcement officers in Nogales, Arizona. The police chief confirmed it that direct messages have been conveyed to them: If you don’t leave our drug loads alone, we’re going to have sniper fire upon you and take out your officers.
We have had death threats made against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, in the next county over from me—a million dollar bounty on his head from the Mexican drug cartels themselves. There’s been a green light placed on me from the Mexican mafia saying that they’re going to take me out. All of this trash south of the border from the cartels clearly is bleeding over into America and we shouldn’t be surprised.
There’s now 28,000 victims, casualties, people who have been killed through this battle by Calderon saying he’s got a war on the drug cartels. Well, we know who’s winning. It’s not Mexico. And some people are even saying Mexico is a failed state. So, the trouble, the violence has increased. It’s here. Not at our border anymore. It’s come into America
Jeffrey: Sheriff, let me roll you back for a minute. You said there was a green light placed on you. What does that mean exactly?
Babeu: A green light is much like, people remember, a mafia hit, like with the Italian mafia. It’s more a contract where somebody is paid to take somebody out. In this case, the Mexican mafia—you’re talking about, uh, gangs that are here in the United States, uh, lots of them that are in prison—federal prison, usually maximum security— and they agree, hey, we’re going to have a green light placed on this individual and from what they’re briefing me is usually what happens is when you’re released from federal prison, if you don’t take out this person, that you’re going to be killed yourself. So it’s a degree of honor and all these other things. So, the fight is come against, now, law enforcement. I’m not so much concerned about my safety, more outraged at the fact that this crap is going on in the United States of America.
Jeffrey: But your understanding specifically is that Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations would like to kill you?
Babeu: That’s correct.
Jeffrey: And how do you know that? Where does that information come from?
Babeu: Outside law enforcement agencies, outside of Arizona. That’s been put up to ACTIC, our counterterrorism and public safety run by Department of Public Safety. They’ve looked into it as well and this is—
Jeffrey: And they believe that it’s a fact—
Babeu: The allegations have been intercepted by these folks.
Jeffrey: That the department of--
PB: And they believe, they call it “credible threats,” and not to blow it off
TJ: Okay, so the Department of Public Safety for the state of Arizona has investigated the thought that you might’ve been quote-unquote “green lighted” by Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations, meaning they want to assassinate you, and they believe that that is in fact a credible threat against your life.
Babeu: An outside-of-Arizona law enforcement agency has forwarded a detailed report, where they have intercepted communication and they have asked that that information not be relayed publicly because it may compromise an investigation or an individual facility. But, yes, this is going on not just with me but with Sheriff Joe as well. He’s had other threats. But by the mere fact that they’re making threats against not just regular cops--I’m a cop first—but also our leaders in law enforcement. This is what they do in Mexico. They kill a police chief in broad daylight. Now, Terry, would you want to be the police chief next?
Babeu: And if you are, they’ll come to you and say, you either take this thousand dollars a month or look the either way, or you’re next. And your family’s going to be whacked as well.
Jeffrey: And you believe the Drug Trafficking Organizations would like to bring that same sort of intimidation across the border into Arizona and other borders states?
Babeu: This, back a decade ago and beyond, wasn’t in Mexico, and now it’s become a part of their very culture. And so, this is how they think, this is how they live, this is how they survive. There’s no doubt in my mind that eventually these things will be brought here to America. And it’s not to be dramatic, it’s a matter of talk to intel analysts and they’ll tell you that these things are not only credible, that they’re serious threats. And advisories are put out all the time to the law enforcement community to be aware and alert of those things.
Jeffrey: Sheriff, those quotes I read to you earlier came from that, as I mentioned, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking report –
Jeffrey: For your specific region. That was published in March of 2009. You flash forward more than a year to May of this year. The same organization, the National Drug Intelligence Center, published its annual Drug Threat Assessment for the entire United States. So, in the intervening time, the Obama administration had a year in office to try to do something about stemming the flow of drugs across the border and illegal aliens and trying to get the crime situation under control. This is what that report said. They say, quote:
“Mexican DTOs increased the flow of several drugs (heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana) into the United States, primarily because they increased production of those drugs in Mexico.” Unquote.
The same report now says that Mexican DTOs are the greatest organized crime threat to the United States. Is the Obama administration seriously trying to stop this problem?
Babeu: If they were completely serious and really wanted to address this long-term is to take the McCain and Kyl--they’re senators—their ten-point plan. I, along with other leaders, helped craft that based on our law enforcement and our military experience directly on the border. What works, what doesn’t work, the lessons learned. That plan works.
If the president would come here himself instead of all these political fundraisers and back-to-back vacations—I don’t begrudge anybody a vacation but, you know what? I and everybody else in Arizona can’t go on vacation from this--and we want the president to come here and see for himself that in that year’s time that’s elapsed, not only hasn’t there been a proper response by the federal government, they put up signs in my county.
These signs that you hear about warning--“Warning. Danger. Stay Out.--that’s in Pinal County, 70, 80 miles north of the border warning our own American citizens of the danger of drug and human smuggling. How can this be in America? This isn’t some foreign land. This is our own country, and we’re literally resigning these areas because we’re warning our own citizens, don’t go in there. Why don’t we shut this down?
Jeffrey: There are some people who will say, it’s impossible to secure the border. It’s a pipe dream, it really can’t be done. You reject that notion. You believe the U.S. government can in fact seal the border in Arizona.
Babeu: I reject it and I believe that any officials who thinks that the United States of America that has defeated foreign armies, liberated countries throughout our proud history, can’t even secure our own international border, I do not accept that. And I dismiss it out of hand because I’ve helped do it. We have helped secure the Yuma sector. California, in large measure, is secure because of the increased not only surveillance but that double-barrier fence with the hardball—the asphalt in between so Border Patrol can rapidly deploy. This double-barrier fence must be built in the urban or built-up areas. That’s where the historic paths are.
We deny immediate access and let the Border Patrol do their job. And then, the third and most critical point is to deport them. There’s a punishment for coming into America. Guess what? You come in again, you’re going to prison for up to two years. Anywhere that we’ve done that along the border has absolutely stopped the illegal entries.
Jeffrey: Sheriff Babeu, President Obama, who has a constitutional authority and duty to defend this country, has been to Afghanistan to look there to what he can do to make sure we can get the job done there. If he would come to Arizona—if he would come to southern Arizona—you would like to personally meet with him, show him what you see in your day-to-day work, and persuade him that you think your plan to secure the border would actually do it?
Babeu: If the president gave me a half an hour, I’m confident that I could convince him and to show him the way that he can personally secure the border. And he would be the hero of everybody that truly transcends bipartisan politics and secures that border. I believe that if a leader truly wanted to do that, we have the means and the resources necessary to secure our border and to protect America once and for all.
Jeffrey: It’s just up to President--
Babeu: And then we can get to the point in the future, only after the border is secured, that there’s some type of discussion about what do we do with the approximate 13 million people who are here illegally.
Jeffrey: But you think it’s just up to President Obama to make the decision to get it done and the job can be done?
Babeu: Yes, absolutely.
Jeffrey: Sheriff Babeu, thank you very much.
Babeu: Thank you, Terry.