Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally Meets With Border Employees, Officials In Nogales

By Michel Marizco
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - 8:12am
Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - 3:21pm

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Martha McSally and Art del Cueto
Michel Marizco/KJZZ
Arizona U.S. Sen. Martha McSally and Art del Cueto , Border Patrol national union vice-president, in front of the Nogales border fence on Jan. 22, 3019.

In downtown Nogales, the U.S.-Mexico border fence is a patina tapestry of steel posts running the length of the city and up into the low-slung hills to the east. Arizona Sen. Martha McSally chose the last paved corner of downtown for a press conference with the border fence as a backdrop.

A cold January sun gleamed off the shining coils of razor wire the U.S. military had just erected months ago when officials worried asylum seekers would storm the border here.

With the Border Patrol union’s vice president standing beside her, McSally said she had just met with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) employees and bought them pizzas.

"Ordered them a bunch of pizzas. Wish I was independently wealthy, but I’m not. But the least I can do is provide them one meal,” she said.

McSally backs President Donald Trump’s negotiation to end the government shutdown: provide $5.7 billion for 234 miles of new border fencing, hire more border agents and customs officers, bring more scanners to stop drug trafficking at the ports.

"And doing something on DACA," she said, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan implemented by President Barack Obama in 2012 that Trump has used for immigration legislation negotiations several times since taking office. "I think these are the types of topics in the realm of what a compromise might look like to open up the government, fund it for the next 8 months, invest in border security at the right level and do it in the fastest way possible.”

U.S.-Mexico border fence
Michel Marizco/KJZZ
In downtown Nogales, the U.S.-Mexico border fence is a patina tapestry of steel posts running the length of the city.

The Republican senator said she was unfamiliar with a plan Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had announced just moments before that would bring a similar bargain to a vote Thursday. It’ll need 60 votes to pass and Democrats have already rejected it.

Earlier, McSally had met with cross-border industry leaders and with Nogales, Ariz., Mayor Arturo Garino, who inherited a border city cloaked in those coils of razor wire on the border fence. He says e finally had a chance to ask her about that.

"Right before she said, ‘Well we’re going to have to be leaving, this and that,’ I said, ‘I have one more thing to say. if you don’t mind. And I’m sure this will be real easy to do.’ And she says, ‘What’s that, mayor?’ I said, ‘How about removing the razor wire?’”

The military strung the razor wire last November; in fact, it started the project here on Election Day.

"I know everything else we talked about is the big picture and the razor wire es una cosita, it’s a small thing.”

McSally said she had told CBP about the mayor’s concern.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada wasn’t part of the meetings Tuesday. He accused the federal government, Trump, specifically of holding federal government workers hostage.

"It’s obvious that’s what’s happening. obviously there’s no empathy, there’s no compassion to what they’re going through right now. I think it’s really cruel. I think is a word that best expresses this situation that these people are going through," Estrada said.

Unless the shutdown ends, federal employees will miss their second paycheck this Friday.

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