Southwestern Border Sheriff's Coalition express concerns over proposed national monument

Southwestern Border Sheriff's Coalition express concerns over proposed national monument
Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - 6:00pm

The proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument has drawn some opposition by the Southwestern Border Sheriff's Coalition with concerns for public safety.

The coalition comprised of 31 border sheriff's led by Dona Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison wrote a letter to Senator Martin Heinrich and Senator Tom Udall expressing their concerns.

In December, Heinrich and Udall introduced a bill to to designate the monument.

Proponents said protecting about 500,000 acres of historic lands will be beneficial to the area.

"The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks for Dona Ana county means $7.4 million annually into our local economy.

Carrie Hamblen with the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce said a non-partisan economic study shows the national monument would also create 88 jobs and generate half a million dollars in taxes.

But the coalition feels it would affect their ability to enforce the law in a vital portion of land along the border.

"Our general concern is just access to that area for patrols," said DASO Spokesperson Kelly Jameson.
Language in the bill states law enforcement would have access to the area including the use of vehicles to pursue suspects.

The bill would also add a 5-mile buffer zone along the border and designate a road specifically for law enforcement.

In the letter, Garrison writes the bill does not provide clear jurisdiction to the sheriff's office in enforcing the law.

"The way it's written write now our ability to curb that activity is greatly affected," Jameson said.
Jameson estimated the department conducts about 15 patrols a month in the southern part of the county along the border.

In the letter, Garrison said since Customs and Border Protection cannot act as peace officers, they are limited to enforcing the law.

"That's why you have coordination among agencies and that's why you have memoranda of understanding so everybody does know who's on first and who's on second," said retired Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Ossorio, who supports the monument.

Jameson said the sheriff would like to see some open dialogue with the senators regarding the issue.

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