SIERRA VISTA, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Sheriffs and command staff from nearly 100 sheriff's departments across the western United States are in southern Arizona to discuss border-related issues.
It's all part of the Southwestern Border Sheriffs' Coalition Annual Meeting, hosted for the first time this year by Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels.
"With all the attention on the border and immigration issues, they thought this would be a great place to come," Dannels said.
And what better place to discuss illegal immigration than ground zero of this international debate: the U.S./Mexico.
That's where a procession of several SUVs and two tour buses filled with law enforcement personnel, ranchers and their significant others headed on Wednesday afternoon, focusing on a 10-mile stretch of the border just west of Naco.
"The border is not secure," said Ed Ashurst, a Douglas-area rancher whose family first settled near the border in the 1870s.
"We have lots of infrastructure, lots of federal money, taxpayer money and nothing is happening," Ashurst said, citing dozens of times his ranch has been broken into by illegal immigr ants, as well as the murder of close friend and fellow rancher Robert Krentz by border bandits back in 2010.
"The possibility of that happening again is very very real," Ashurst said.
This is precisely why these sheriffs are touring the border - to see these problems firsthand and begin to understand just how complex illegal immigration really is.