February 22, 2019

Nogales Concertina Wire; Border Wall Fundraising; Immigrant Crime Rates

Plus, hearing from so-called "angel parents," whose children were killed by immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

Before President Trump declared a national emergency at the border, the federal government had already taken steps to fortify barriers along Arizona's border with Mexico by installing concertina wire at the top of bollard fencing in a few communities like the City of Nogales.

Within the last month, the military installed additional rows of wire that reach the ground in some sections.

The move led to pushback from city leaders who said they would consider suing the federal government as a last resort to get it taken down. Lorraine Rivera spoke to Deputy City Manager John Kissinger about some of the concerns

"I'm very worried that some small child or unexpected person could walk into that wire and get tangled up," Kissinger said. "I've seen the effects of concertina wire on a person, and it's not pretty."

Kissinger is also a retired police officer who served the Nogales Police Department for nearly 30 years. Rivera asked if he could see the value of a fortified wall in helping bolster the efforts of law enforcement.

"I could see the value of it, but I would also be hopeful that somebody would keep me in check and make sure I that didn't harm anybody in doing my job," Kissinger said.

When the first strands of concertina wire went up in Nogales in November, city officials worried it would discourage shoppers from Mexico. A study from the University of Arizona Eller College of Management found that in 2007-2008 spending by travelers from Mexico accounted for nearly half of the sales tax generated in Santa Cruz County. Arizona 360 spoke to community members and visitors in Nogales to get their thoughts on added security measures at the border.

Nogales is one of at least three border communities in Arizona with concertina wire installed. Arizona 360 learned more about the decision-making process from Sabri Dikman, patrol agent in charge at Border Patrol's Nogales Station. According to Dikman, the request for concertina wire originated within the Nogales Station and was ultimately approved at the agency's headquarters. Since its placement in areas the station considers "active," there have been more than 100 attempts to cut or breach the wire, Dikman said.

"We understand that if they're cutting it, they want to come across, and it is impeding them to some level," Dikman said.

When asked about some of the public's concerns about the wire, Dikman said Border Patrol is taking their feedback into consideration.

"We also have to take into consideration our mission and the current environment," Dikman said, adding that there are no immediate plans to remove the wire.

An organization raising funds to build a new border wall on private land made its pitch in Southern Arizona earlier this month. "We Build the Wall, Inc." held a town hall hosted by Quail Creek Republicans in Sahuarita that was attended by former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon. Its founder, Brian Kolfage, spoke to Lorraine Rivera about why he's taken on the initiative.

"I was just fed up with the way things were going within the government," Kolfage said. "And I thought maybe I could have a chance to influence something and have an impact."

Kolfage's efforts gained attention in December when he initially tried raising the funds on the popular crowdfunding site, GoFundMe. The campaign failed to meet its goal in time, leading the group to form a nonprofit so it could continue collecting donations.

"The wall will pretty much look like what President Trump's building now. ... We are going to be the people with the money. We will hire out contractors to go on the private property and build it," Kolfage said. "It's going to be very simple as if that property owner just wanted to build a fence."

Guests attending a town hall event in Sahuarita for "We Build the Wall, Inc." heard from two Arizonans known as "angel parents." The term describes someone whose children were killed by immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. Lorraine Rivera spoke to Mary Ann Mendoza and Steve Ronnebeck about the causes they've undertaken since losing their children.

Mendoza's son, Brandon Mendoza, was driving home from his shift as a Mesa police officer when a man driving the wrong direction slammed into the officer's car in 2014. Both men were killed. Investigators learned the other man was drunk and in the country illegally. Since then, Mary Ann Mendoza has become outspoken about stricter immigration laws she believes could have prevented her son's death.

"I wrote a couple letters to President Obama at the time with no response. And I just knew it was an uphill battle. We had politicians who didn't care," Mendoza said.

Mary Ann's pain is shared by Steve Ronnebeck. In 2015, his son Grant Ronnebeck was working at a convenience store when a customer became disgruntled and shot and killed the 21-year-old Ronnebeck. The Arizona Republic reported that the suspect was facing deportation at the time, but was out on bond. Steve Ronnebeck now supports the initiative by "We Build the Wall" to build a border wall on private lands with help from private donors.

"I don't necessarily want Grant remembered for what happened to him. But since it did happen, I'd like his name and him to be remembered as the face of something historic and something good," Ronnebeck said. "This is pretty historic when you have 300-and-some thousand American citizens that are opening up their wallets to do what our government hasn't been able to do."

One of President Trump's arguments for stepped-up border security is that immigrants who enter the country illegally go on to commit dangerous crimes. However, reports show that immigrants commit violent crimes at lower rates than citizens. One widely cited report from the Cato Institute looked at data from the Texas Department of Public Safety and found that U.S.-born citizens were convicted of crimes 50 percent more often than undocumented immigrants and 66 percent more often than immigrants in the state legally. Alex Nowrasteh, the Cato Institute's senior immigration political analyst, authored the report and discussed his findings with Lorraine Rivera.

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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