Arizona sheriff says his county pays for cartel traffickers’ hospital bills

· July 31, 2019  
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Warning sign at Arizona-Mexico border
Melissa Kopka | Getty Images

Talk about paying for the rope to hang ourselves with.

“We have people coming through our desert on a daily basis,” lamented Pinal County, Arizona, Sheriff Mark Lamb on my podcast Monday. “We have [cartel] scouts that live in the mountains, watch their product, and protect it from law enforcement. They’re up there for about two weeks to four weeks at a time. They have night vision firearms, binoculars, and radios. It’s kind of technologically advanced, but rudimentary at the same time.”

Sheriff Lamb’s county is not even on the border. The southern end of the county is about 70 miles from the border between Mexico and Arizona, yet international terror cartels have operational control over the flow of people and drugs into his county, especially through the mountains dotting the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation. And his rural county, which is few in people and light in revenue but large in territory to secure, is paying the price.

Lamb noted that his county is not only on the hook for the carnage left behind by the lack of border security, but it must also pay to treat the very people seeking to harm Americans when they get into a bind and call 911.

“I mean, just with our aviation unit, we actually had to respond to the smugglers’ call and say, hey, this guy’s fallen out. If they’re nice enough to call, and we show up, and this guy was left for dead, we had to find him. So now all the resources that we had at our disposal are now dedicated to finding a guy who’s about to die. When we did find him laying underneath the tree, we had to give him the three bags of IV to bring him back. And while we were dealing with that guy, there were seven more 911 calls from smugglers who are either lost or hurt.”

The cowboy-looking sheriff minced no words about who is left with the tab paying for illegal immigration and cartel smuggling. “Let’s say I arrest a guy who had a backpack of marijuana, but then he’s sick because of this 70-mile trek across the desert – if I have to take him to the hospital while he’s in my custody, my county pays for that. If Americans just knew about the toll that it took financially on the taxpayer, they would lose their minds, they would be climbing from the rooftops for Congress to do something and declare the cartels terrorists. And it is such a burden on us.”



“We now have to deal with the competing cartels and smugglers, known as rip crews, engaging in violence with each other in our desert areas,” warned Sheriff Lamb, who was elected in 2016. “Rip crews are other drug dealers that are ripping off the drug dealers who are bringing the human beings and the drugs into our country. They’re very prepared. They wear carpet shoes, they wear camouflage clothes, I can take you down to the desert right off the freeway [I-10]. And you’d be shocked to see how many backpacks, camouflage clothes, discarded water bottles, and sleeping bags and everything down there. And we’re 70 miles off the border!”

Lamb has just a few hundred deputies to patrol nearly 5,500 square miles, an area roughly the size of the state of Connecticut. It puts a tremendous strain on the county’s resources because DHS leaders are now more concerned about the welfare of illegal aliens at the border than about using the agents to stop the criminal activity at the line. As a result, Pinal County is forced to serve as a backstop: “You got to remember, every time I arrest somebody, and I put them in my jail, I actually have a do up a report. My guys have to go in and impound hundreds of pounds of drugs. It takes its toll on my staff; I don’t just get to throw them in there and walk away. There’s a lot of reports that go ahead.”

Then there are the smuggling bailouts on the roads and highways he has to deal with, similar to what secondary border counties in Texas are confronted with:

“I would say at least three to five times a week, we have a vehicle that will run from us, and our deputies or Border Patrol will be pursuing them. They will drive at high rates of speed with total disregard for public safety. And then as soon as they can get a little bit ahead of us, they will bail out, and you’ll see 10 people shoot out of a truck or a car. And now you’ve got one deputy, or maybe two, that has to deal with eight to 10 people that just shot out of a vehicle. And we may or may not catch one or two of them. We try to catch the driver. Even if we caught one of the passengers, it’s hard to attribute all the marijuana in the back of the vehicle to that one person because he wasn’t the driver, so there’s no deterrent. There’s just so much involved with it that the American people don’t really get a chance to see or understand. And you know, the media definitely doesn’t want to put this out there.”

Why should the buffer zone of this activity be on our side of the border and this deep into U.S. territory? Why is the federal government not holding the line at the border itself?

The sheriff made it clear that even with his joint local and federal operation with air assets, they are by no means catching everyone. He noted that few of the criminals actually stay in Pinal County. Many of these criminals and traffickers wind up in a city on the East Coast or other populated areas and cause crimes for years to come.

“I look at my aviation unit every day. And you know, we’ll have a stat where we have 10 detections and maybe 4 apprehensions. I’m gonna tell you listeners, we’re not catching 100 percent of them. That goes to show you how much is getting through right now. … They’re making as much money off of bodies as drugs.”

And that is exactly how nearly every county eventually becomes a border county.


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Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.