The effort to curb illegal immigration in his Arizona border jurisdiction has deteriorated dramatically since President Joe Biden took office, Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels says.

“When President Biden declared the southwest border a nonemergency, it stopped the physical barrier going up, it stopped all infrastructure completion, it stopped the subterraneal technology, it froze that construction on-site,” Dannels said in an interview with The Daily Signal. 

Dannels described “cables out of the ground, trenches, bridges not done, roadways not done.” The wall project is  “environmentally in disarray, it’s physically in disarray,” the border sheriff added.

“And what’s going to happen after our monsoon season, which is in July, it’s going to wipe out most of what’s even been done there,” Dannels said.

After being sworn in Jan. 20, Biden signed an executive order halting construction of President Donald Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

“It’s not reasonable to take tax dollars and stop a project we did,” Dannels said. 

“If President Biden doesn’t want to build one more inch of fence or physical barrier or subterraneal technology, lighting, that’s his choice. But you got to fix what you started. You got to finish what you started, or come up with a reasonable conclusion,” he told The Daily Signal.

The number of border crossings is only increasing. 

Approximately 178,622 illegal immigrants were detained along the border in April by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the highest number in over 20 years. 

Dannels said Cochise County residents are concerned about what is happening along the 83 miles of border that his jurisdiction shares with Mexico. 

“Our physical barrier that was being built by President Trump has been halted [at] the southwest border. The infrastructure, all that’s in disarray, [with] cables sticking out of the ground, holes in the fence,” Dannels said, adding: 

That’s just not a good way to reasonably conclude a project under a former administration. And then you look at—which I think is probably the worst—is the messaging here. What message have we sent to those that want to come into our country and harm us, from the cartels to those that promote drugs? … Look at 9/11. That’s a date we should never, ever forget, but unfortunately, time is forgetting that. And that’s sad.

Dannels, first elected Cochise sheriff as a Republican in 2012 and reelected in 2016 and 2020, has served in law enforcement for 36 years. 

That career began in 1984 after a stint in the Army. He rose through the ranks of the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office to the position of deputy commander after working specialty assignments and leadership roles. The state’s governor recognized his efforts to improve highway and community safety, according to his official bio

Dannels said he has seen firsthand the effects of the crisis at the border. 

Now, “220 people a day are dying of drug overdoses,” the sheriff said, citing a national figure. 

“And then you look at [the fact that] 90% of all the illicit drugs in this country come through our southwest border. With that alone, we should be securing this border. Plus, there’s a constitutional mandate that we should have a secure border. And right now, I’m worried about that.”

Although the mainstream media tends to report that only families and unaccompanied children are coming across the border, the sheriff said, there is a much bigger story to tell because many of the unlawful crossers are young men. 

“What the national media shows is unaccompanied minors, and that’s sad,” Dannels, 57, said. “That’s a terror to anybody’s heart. I’ve coached, I’ve got kids. I get that.”

Dannels and his wife Nickie, a registered nurse, have three adult sons: Justin, a police officer; Ryan, a firefighter and paramedic; and Corey, a lineworker.

The media is failing to report on the facts at the border, the sheriff told The Daily Signal.

“What they’re not showing is the getaways, the [drug] cartel influence on all this … the motives behind the cartels, drugs, fear, greed. It’s all about the dollar bill and how they can exploit Americans for addictions, how they can get into our communities and erode them and families. I don’t know why that story’s not being told. We all know it’s true. There’s nobody debating that, but that doesn’t sell, I guess.”

Dannels said he is puzzled that Vice President Kamala Harris, assigned March 24 by Biden to be his point person on the crisis, still hasn’t visited the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We haven’t been prioritizing the southwest border,” Dannels said. 

“If that was the case, the vice president would be here. She was close, she got to South Carolina the other day, I heard, North Carolina. I got a call from the sheriff in that county saying, ‘Hey, the vice president’s here.’ I go, ‘Send her south. I’d like to have a word with her.’ But she hasn’t been down here.” 

Dannels, who was a member of a Homeland Security Advisory Council disbanded by the Biden administration, said he sees regularly how frustrated Border Patrol agents are about the crisis. 

“I hear it every day, how frustrated they are, how their hands are tied, how they can’t do the job they were hired to do, because they’d been reassigned to child care or processing,” Dannels said, adding:

In the meantime, the more you pull off border security, the more you open up that opportunity window for the cartels to exploit us and exploit this country. If we don’t secure this border, we’re going to be different. And the return on that’s not going to be good for anybody in this country.