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Yuma Co. Sheriff Wilmot: border wall should be completed

Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot addresses Arizona lawmakers at the State Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024.
Arizona House of Representatives
Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot addresses Arizona lawmakers at the State Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024.

The border wall in the Yuma Sector should be completed as soon as possible, the sheriff of Yuma County said last week in Phoenix.

Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot told state lawmakers at a Special Joint Legislative Session that only about seven miles in Yuma County remain without a border barrier. Sheriff Wilmot said his department is responding to distress calls from migrants in the rugged desert borderland.

Arizona state Rep. Tim Dunn invited Wilmot to address legislators at the State Capitol. Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels also spoke at the session.

A budget proposal released by Gov. Katie Hobbs earlier this month set aside more state money for projects along the border. KJZZ reports there is a $15 million fentanyl-interdiction program called SAFE. Another initiative called SECURE would give $1 million to the state’s Department of Homeland Security to respond to border issues.

"We were able to utilize funding given to us by you for our helicopter, which we had no air asset," Wilmot told lawmakers. "For many years in Yuma County, we relied on the Marine Corps Search and Rescue, but then the Marine Corps shut that down."

Wilmot said his department used state funds from the former Border Strike Force for that effort. He said he’d like additional funding to go toward monitoring cross-border money laundering and other financial crimes.

He said his sheriffs are monitoring 10 known stash or smuggling houses in his jurisdiction. One method he mentioned that the cartels have used recently include using t-shirt cannons to shoot drugs over the border fence.

Wilmot's main message was that asylum abuse is widespread as coyotes convince migrants to leave their home countries' identification cards and passports behind and that cross-border cartel violence continues.

Wilmot did not give the latest numbers for migrants being apprehended in Yuma County nor did he address the checkpoint near Telegraph Pass that remains closed after a man crashed into it in late October. Officials said the crash did not appear to be suspicious.

In a interview with members of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security that was released on Dec. 20, Yuma Sector Dep. Chief Patrol Agent Dustin Caudle said narcotics interdictions are up, specifically fentanyl, cocaine and heroin.


KJZZ's Alisa Reznick contributed to this report.

Victor is originally from West Sacramento, California and has lived in Arizona for more than five years. He began his print journalism career in 2004 following his graduation from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. Victor has been a reporter for the following daily newspapers: The Monterey County Herald, The Salinas Californian and the Reno Gazette-Journal, where he covered stories including agriculture, education and Latino community news. Victor has also served as a local editor for Patch, a national news organization with hyperlocal websites, in Carmichael, California in the Sacramento area. He also served as the editor for The New Vision, the newspaper for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, which includes Yuma and La Paz counties. Victor lives in Somerton. He enjoys spending time with his family and friends and following most sports.
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