Sheriff calls for policy changes after visit to Southern Border

Submitted photo Sheriff James Quattrone is pictured last week at the southern border in Cochise County, Arizona. Quattrone spent several days touring the border between the United States and Mexico.

Chautauqua County Sheriff James Quattrone said last week’s trip to Arizona “opened my eyes” to the activities taking place on the southern border.

But the trip, he said, also validated some of his beliefs born from serving as the county’s top law enforcement official.

“I think there needs to be an overhaul on policies, but our political leaders in Congress need to work together to resolve this,” Quattrone said Monday, fresh from his days-long trip to Cochise County in Arizona.

“As I heard Sheriff (Mark) Dannels say several times when we were talking with community groups is that we have to start putting people over politics,” he continued. “That doesn’t seem to be happening right now.”

Quattrone had been invited by Dannels to see first-hand what’s taking place on the U.S. and Mexico border — a large swath of which the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office monitors. He spent two and a half days with sheriff’s deputies as well as the Southeastern Arizona Border Region Enforcement Team (SABRE), focusing on border security, narcotics and human trafficking.

Quattrone previously alluded to the perils of human trafficking, referencing a handful of local arrests while he’s been sheriff. His trip last week confirmed how border crossings, both from Canada and Mexico, are playing a role in the trafficking problem.

“The drugs are coming across, but they’re getting more bodies that are coming across,” Quattrone said.

“The cartels are utilizing that. They’re making more money on the bodies than they are on the drugs.”

In recounting what he learned, Quattrone alluded to “load drivers” — individuals recruited by cartels to transport undocumented immigrants after they enter the country.

In 2022, the Arizona attorney general released a public notice on the “dangerous and unprecedented trend happening at our southern border involving drivers, including Arizona teenagers, transporting undocumented immigrants for the cartels in what are referred to as ‘load cars.'”

In some instances, the state’s attorney general said, cartels were enticing teenagers by using ads promising payment up to $2,000 for each passenger picked up at the border and driven north to a specified location.

“The lucrative deal is not only attracting people as young as 14 years old from the greater Phoenix area but also men and women of all ages and even drivers from out of state, who come to Arizona to cash in on the commute for the cartel,” the AG said. “Nearly all of the drivers stopped are U.S. citizens.”

In Cochise County alone, the Sheriff’s Office estimated in 2022 that there were about 1,000 smugglers a month coming to the border. A task force reported attempts to stop 2 to 10 “load cars” a day, which also have resulted in dangerous high-speed pursuits.

Quattrone believes cartels are exploiting U.S. policies to bring undocumented immigrants into the country and then have them transported.

“Most of the individuals crossing the border are not from Mexico, they’re from other countries,” he said.

“The cartels are intercepting, keeping some of their families back in Mexico so they can control those they are bringing across the border.”

Quattrone said he did not witness anyone crossing while touring the border last week. At the same time, he also did not see any U.S. Border Patrol agents either. Those officers, he said, are being used to process the individuals coming into the country.

During his visit, the sheriff learned about “give ups” — people who cross the border then promptly turn themselves in. He also learned of “got aways” — those who enter the country but are not detained or processed.

Quattrone has spent plenty of time recently learning about the southern border. The topic was brought up during a National Sheriffs’ Association trip to Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

Sheriffs from across the country had the opportunity to talk to members of Congress on border security.

“Nobody that we talked to denied that there was a crisis at the border,” Quattrone said of the D.C. visit. “How to fix it was different.”

While in Arizona, the sheriff learned that of the 2,000 or so “border crimes” documented last year in Cochise County, only about 150 were perpetrated by undocumented immigrants.

He also heard from local residents on a range of concerns, including the environmental impact the border crossings are having on the U.S. side. During a walk near the border, Quattrone said he spotted “carpet shoes,” makeshift footwear meant to hide footprints, as well as litter being left along trails coming from Mexico.

“I had never even thought about that,” the sheriff said of the environmental impact.

Regarding the trip, he said, “It has opened my eyes to what is happening and the magnitude of it.”


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