Emergency declarations in New Mexico and Arizona have freed up money usually reserved for natural disasters. This time, it will be applied, instead to a man-made calamity: illegal immigration.
In Arizona, $1.5 million will go to four border counties, physically and financially overwhelmed by what officials say is a lack of border security.
“There has been officer involved shootings, there have been high speed chases, and people have gotten hurt. As a result of that we got involved,” says Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada.
The 30-year-old Santa Cruz county jail, designed for 52 inmates, nowadays hold double that. A majority of the people held are not even from the U.S.. Prosecuting those type of cases ties up an army of county attorney’s working in over-crowded offices. Even the bathroom is used for storage.
And it all costs money.
Federal authorities say Arizona is the most porous part of the border with Mexico, but they’re working on it. “The technology and the additional agents we’ve put there certainly makes the point that we are addressing this and we’re taking it quite seriously,” says Luis Barker, Deputy Chief, U.S. Customs & Border Protection.
For 18 years, Lt. Raul Rodriguez has watched over his county’s 50-mile stretch of border. He says over a thousand people a day come in illegally.
Not far from the backyards of a local neighborhood is a trail through which undocumented immigrants come north.
And, it’s not just people: The streets of Nogales are scarred and rutted by tunnels drug smugglers dig under the border — 18 in the last 10 years.
The emergency money Arizona is providing will help his county today, but tomorrow the problems will have grown a thousand-fold.