Blog Post – Borders & Beyond – Sheriff Tony Estrada
Photo: Nogales Border Wall – November, 2017 (Peg Hunter Photographer)
NOGALES BORDER WALL – Part 1
Sheriff Tony Estrada – Nogales and Santa Cruz County, Arizona
(from talk given January 19, 2019)
About 4 weeks ago I attended a Border Issues event in Sahuarita, AZ. Today, as I see articles about fake national emergencies and the massive application of concertina wire on the border wall in Nogales, AZ, I have found myself thinking quite a bit about some of the things the speakers had to say at that event.
Sheriff Tony Estrada – Mexican born sheriff of 26 years in Nogales and Santa Cruz County, Arizona. He has worked in law enforcement along the border for the past 51 years. (Santa Cruz County includes the Nogales border wall, the US city of Nogales and a large area stretching north from Nogales towards Tucson)
He talks about the build up of border security and infrastructure in 1995 when there was a sudden influx of people heading north after the passing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) “When they [the government] first started doing things in the urban areas, the Ports of Entry, especially downtown, the Federal Government did not take into consideration the relationships that we had with our friendly neighbors in Nogales, Sonora, in Mexico…”
“You would see families on both sides of the fence talking to each other, holding hands. One time I was down there they had a mariachi group.”
“In all of the 51 years, and the years that I have lived along the border, I have seen that border community evolve and the dynamics change a lot. From when I was growing up you could go across the line and come back without any problem. Go to church for holidays. Like the Cinco de Mayo… they would put a platform on the border and [there would be] a queen from Nogales, Sonora and a queen from Nogales, Arizona. People would come back and forth across… That is something that I don’t think we will ever see again. And that’s something that we miss terribly along the border wall… our friends out there.”
“…the Federal Government did not take into consideration the relationships that we had with our friendly neighbors in Nogales, Sonora, in Mexico…”
Asked whether he could see anything positive being achieved by additional border walls, “No, I don’t believe in walls. I do believe that there are certain areas that they would be beneficial. I believe that the wall is an option and I’ve said this before, …. it’s not a panacea, it’s not going to solve the problem. You’re going to throw money at it […] and I say you know what? We have pockets of poverty in this country. We’ve got children who go to bed hungry. We have families that are living in their cars. […] We have people who can’t get medication or healthcare and we’re thinking about throwing billions of dollars at a wall that’s not going to make a difference. People will find a way…” (referring to finding a way to cross over)
“You know, I have a lot of empathy and compassion because where I come from, I didn’t have much myself, but like I tell people, I had a roof over my head, you know, and I had food on the table… beans, tortillas maybe, whatever, but I had food. Some of these people who are coming across have absolutely nothing but the clothes on their back. So they must be very, very desperate. Very, very desperate for something better. And when you think about people coming thousands and thousands of miles at great expense and at great danger and you say to yourself there’s got to be a special quality in the people that will take that challenge and take that trip. How courageous and committed and desperate might they be.”
About drugs and violence in the border region?
He talks about the Nogales Ports of Entry. “We have a major corridor”. “We have people coming across. We have drugs coming across. The majority of the drugs coming across right now, the hard drugs, are coming thru the ports of entry.” “About 2000 tractor trailers cross that Port of Entry every day.” “About 20-30,000 people cross that border every day.” (at the Ports of Entry) “So, as a result of that, there’s an opportunity for people to bring drugs across the border, and we see that a lot.”
As for violence, “I can tell you that Nogales and Santa Cruz County are very safe border communities. […] With the exception of last year, April of last year and December, there were 4 homicides, which is unprecedented. Prior to that, the county of Santa Cruz hadn’t had a homicide since November of 2011.”
— Photo: Nogales Border Wall – 2017.
“We have pockets of poverty in this country. We’ve got children who go to bed hungry. We have families that are living in their cars. […] We have people who can’t get medication or healthcare and we’re thinking about throwing billions of dollars at a wall that’s not going to make a difference.”