Border security remains top of mind for Arizona leaders: 'We want to take real action'

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs took questions on Feb. 28 on a slew of topics, but mainly focusing on her recent visit to the southern border, saying she wants to make a few changes with funding and try to better equip those living in border communities.

She briefly touched on topics like current tax bills, water, and foreign relations but her main message was about her recent trip to Yuma. This comes as Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb testified in Washington D.C. about how dire the situation is becoming.

"We are not coming down there for photo ops," she said. "We want to take real action and implement solutions that are going to be helpful."

She made her second trip to the border since taking office in January – meeting with border patrol agents, local officials, farmers and migrant health care workers.

This comes as Title 42 is expected to expire in May.

"We are pushing to get FEMA dollars released. That is going to be incredibly helpful, and we are continuing to have ongoing communication with the Biden administration about what we need when Title 42 goes away," she said.

She said she had encouraging meetings with leaders in Mexico to rebuild relationships and address crime.

From the federal level, Hobbs says we need comprehensive immigration reform from Congress, something many have argued the White House is ignoring.

For now, Hobbs’ focus is on how state dollars can help, even if that means moving things around, like the Border Strike Force implemented by former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.

"In our budget, we looked at the Border Strike taskforce within DPS, and our proposal is to eliminate that, but not eliminate the funding. Right now, the Border Strike taskforce is not being actually utilized at the border, and so we want to coordinate those resources where they can be most helpful with the law enforcement there," Hobbs said.

In Washington D.C., the House heard testimony this same day from a parent who lost her child to fentanyl. The Yuma Regional Medical Center president and CEO and Sheriff Lamb advocated for more help along the border.

"My son had five times the amount of fentanyl in his system that was enough to kill. Again, this is not an overdose. This is poisoning. It's murder. It's homicide," Rebecca Kiessling said – the mother for lost her son to fentanyl.

Sheriff Lamb shared his department's efforts on this matter too.

"We end up paying the price on the resource level. I have to dedicate my helicopter. We had ten events yesterday alone where we worked with border patrol. I have my four K-9 units dedicated completely to interdiction catching drugs and people on the way in and money and guns on the way back to Mexico. These are all units that should be dedicated to my community to continue to protect them," he said.

Hobbs says Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will make a trip to Arizona soon, but the exact day has not yet been set.

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