EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Eleven Arizona county sheriffs are urging their state’s congressional delegation to fight increased illegal immigration and fentanyl smuggling by hiring more immigration judges and resuming border wall construction, among others.

The law enforcement officers on Tuesday voted unanimously to support draft federal legislation prepared by Gov. Doug Ducey’s office aimed at bolstering security all along the U.S.-Mexico border, which is seeing a record number of migrant encounters and fentanyl seizures.

“In Arizona, we will secure our border. We will protect public safety. We will not back down,” Ducey said at the meeting with the lawmen. “We will fight this fight until Washington, D.C. finally acts.”

In October and November, U.S. border agents in the Yuma, Arizona sector apprehended more than 44,500 illegal migrants, a 2,400 percent increase over the same two-month period in FY 2021. 

In December, Ducey ordered the National Guard to Yuma after thousands of migrants came across in the space of a few days, overwhelming local law enforcement and emergency services responders.

That’s in the southwestern part of the state. In the east, closer to the border with New Mexico, sheriffs have been dealing with more migrants and more drugs coming across from Mexico.

Security cameras catch a group of migrants wearing camouflage and carrying large backpacks cross the U.S. border near Cochise County Arizona. (photo courtesy Cochise County Sheriff’s Office)

Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels said the smuggling activity is imposing a financial burden on rural communities. “It is hurting us,” he said.

Dannels earlier took Border Report on a tour of border cities including Douglas and Naco, where members of the Sinaloa cartel have taken over control of migrant smuggling across the border. The sheriff showed photos of migrants dressed in camouflage and combat-style boots in some cases carrying large backpacks presumably with drugs.

Ducey in his State of the State address this week called on Democratic U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, as well as the House delegation from Arizona, to work with his administration in addressing what he calls a public safety and humanitarian crisis on the southern border.

In fiscal year 2021, U.S. officials seized 2,633 pounds of fentanyl and 19,572 pounds of methamphetamine at Arizona’s southern border. “Dangerous transnational criminal organizations continue to profit from the border crisis, while continuing to flood our communities with drugs,” Ducey said.