Business owners, Santa Cruz Co. sheriff speak about deployment o - Tucson News Now

Business owners, Santa Cruz Co. sheriff speak about deployment of National Guard to border

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Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada says he does not believe the president's ordered deployment of the National Guard to the US-Mexico border is needed.

Estrada has been sheriff since 1993. He believes President George Bush's deployment of 6,000 guardsmen in 2005 was fruitful as was President Barack Obama's 2010 deployment of 1,200.

He said the US Border Patrol was overwhelmed and out-manned at the time and the military was a needed element to provide a stopgap until more border officers were trained and deployed, but he does not believe that's the case now.

"I think the bottom line is, do we have a crisis? Do we really need the military down here?" he said. "My response to that is no."

In 2000, more than 600,000 illegal immigrants were captured crossing the border illegally in the Tucson sector alone. In 2017, that number dropped to 38,000.

It's small enough that Estrada says he notices the drop nearly every day.

"For our deputies, there may be days or more, we don't ever see anybody crossing the border illegally," he said. "It's just not happening."

Estrada believes the present deployment is more for show than need.

"The numbers are down," he said. "Dramatically down."

As for drugs and contraband, he said most of it is being smuggled at the points of entry, not the remote deserts, which is why he questions why the deployment is designed for rural areas.

"They should put the manpower where it would do some good," he said.

He said there may be some areas along the 1,200-mile border that "present challenges" and if there is not enough Border Patrol agents there, "maybe they should put more Border Patrol agents there."

Some business owners along Morley Avenue, a popular shopping area for people who walk across the border to buy American goods, feel the "militarization" of the border is bad for business.

Jorge Felix, whose family has owned Felix Warehouse for 23 years, has seen a big drop in business in the past two years.

Some of it likely to the peso devaluation, but also "because the words used by President Trump are bad words which leads to bad decisions," he said.

Business has dropped because now it takes an hour or more just to walk across the border to shop.

"In the hot sun, they say it's just not worth it," Felix said.

Driving across can take up to three hours, which is also an impediment. They can save a few dollars but many customers say "it's just so much easier" to shop at home.

He's not sure how much longer they can hang on.

"I'd say it's about 50-50," he said. "Maybe we can survive, maybe we can't survive."

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