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border crisis

Arizona Gubernatorial Candidate Kari Lake Says Wyoming Will Help Pay For Border Wall

in News/Mark Gordon/politics
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

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By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter

Republican Kari Lake, who’s running to be Arizona’s next governor, believes Wyoming may be interested in paying for some of the border wall separating her state from Mexico.

When specifically asked by CBS News over the weekend if she believes Gov. Mark Gordon would be interested in helping pay for the wall, Lake said, “I think governors from other states would be interested in chipping in.”

“When we pay for this border wall, we protect people in South Carolina, Iowa, Idaho, Wyoming, every single state,” Lake said. “We think there is an appetite by Americans to build this wall and we think they’ll help pay for it.”

Up To The Legislature

Lake’s claim may have some legitimacy to it when it comes to Wyoming.

Michael Pearlman, a spokesman for Gordon, said the federal government has been derelict in enforcing border security, but it is the responsibility of the Wyoming Legislature to appropriate money. 

“The governor continues to stand ready to assist his fellow border state governors,” he said.

A Question Of Security

Gordon has been taking action through appearances at the border and in pacts with other governors. In April, he joined 25 other Republican governors to create a Governor’s Border Strike Force.

“All of us are seeing an increase in drug trafficking related to the lack of border security,” Pearlman said.

In October 2021, Gordon joined other governors in Texas to call for policy changes at the U.S-Mexico border and promote their “Joint Policy Framework on the Border Crisis” to the Biden Administration. 

This included calls to continue refusing entry to people coming into the country because of COVID-19, fully reinstate the Migrant Protection Protocols established by former President Donald Trump’s administration that required asylum seekers to return to Mexico to await a court hearing and dedicate additional federal resources to eradicate human trafficking and drug trafficking.

During the trip, Gordon met with Texas Department of Public Safety officials and toured the Rio Grande by boat.

Wyoming Considered Helping In 2021

In 2021, Wyoming offered up to $250,000 in aerial assets to deploy in Arizona for addressing the border crisis. After further discussion, Gordon said it was determined that the assets would not precisely match the needs of a particularly requested border mission.

Although mineral revenues, a significant portion of the state’s budget, have declined in Wyoming over the last decade, they were up significantly in 2021. Gordon also still has $45 million in American Rescue Plan Act money to use at his discretion for future health emergencies.

State Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday afternoon that although he opposes the way the Biden administration is handling border security and would support providing money if his fellow legislators did as well, he also expressed skepticism that any Wyoming money would make a sizable difference in preventing illegal crossings at the border.

“Whether we gave $100,000 or $1 million I’m not sure it would make a big difference,” he said.

Chipping In

A future contribution of $250,000 would be a rather small drop in the bucket as far as what’s needed to complete the border wall, a hallmark of Trump’s 2016 presidential run and 2020 reelection bid.

Construction of the entire wall is estimated to cost $15 billion. 

Gov. Mark Gordon, standing center in cowboy hat, attends an event at the border wall between the United States and Mexico in 2021. (Courtesy Photo, Wyoming Governor’s Office)

Border Background

In January 2021, newly elected president Joe Biden terminated the national emergency that was being used as justification for financing the wall and halted its construction, canceling all border wall projects that were being paid for with funds diverted from U.S. Department of Defense accounts. By October of that year, several border wall construction contracts were canceled and, in some cases, land that was acquired by the government from private property owners returned to their owners. 

The U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security later hinted that construction of the wall may continue under Biden’s administration. In July, the Biden administration announced it would fill four wide gaps in the wall near Yuma, Arizona, an area with some of the busiest corridors for illegal crossings.

A March 2021 review of the wall found only 47 miles of new barriers where none had previously existed. Although Trump described the new wall as “virtually impenetrable,” MSNBC reported smugglers had been able to get through the wall using cheap power tools. Also, new dirt roads that had been used to access the wall construction served as new access roads for smugglers.

Carla Provost, chief of U.S. border patrol, spoke in favor of the wall in 2019, while admitting it is not a flawless solution.

“We already have many miles, over 600 miles (970 km) of barrier along the border,” she told The Hill. “I have been in locations where there was no barrier, and then I was there when we put it up. It certainly helps. It’s not a be-all end-all. It’s a part of a system. We need the technology; we need that infrastructure”

Arizona Gov. Greg Ducey has continued Trump’s efforts, installing shipping containers to fill gaps in the wall in recent weeks.

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Legislator to proceed with effort to ban ‘sanctuary cities.’

in News/immigration
Sanctuary cities

By James Chilton, Cowboy State Daily

CHEYENNE – A Casper legislator said he intends to continue his efforts to ban sanctuary cities in the state as momentum behind the issue continues to build amid the crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Although no cities in Wyoming identify themselves as sanctuary cities, Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, said the prohibition he seeks needs to be spelled out as a part of state law.

“I think laws should be followed. I don’t want sanctuary cities here in Wyoming,” Gray said. “The people of Wyoming want us to get ahead of this and ban sanctuary cities; that’s what’s going to help us be successful.”

This month, Florida became the most recent state to pass legislation seeking to ban sanctuary cities – those cities where law enforcement agencies and local governments limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

It’s the latest development in a growing movement among states seeking to go on the record as opposing policies adopted by some cities and counties to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation or family separation by Immigrations and Custom Enforcement. 

The modern notion of sanctuary cities dates back to 1989, when San Francisco passed a “City and County of Refuge” ordinance blocking city employees from using city resources to assist federal enforcement of immigration law except for some legally-mandated situations. With Florida’s action, 12 states have now passed laws seeking to prohibit or discourage local adoption of sanctuary city policies, and the National Conference of State Legislatures counts at least 21 other state legislatures considering similar legislation in the near- to mid-future.

Wyoming has been on that latter list for several years now, with the most recent effort to curb sanctuary cities being spearheaded by Gray. 

“My bill would ban sanctuary cities in state statute and prevent any state funds from going to sanctuary cities,” he said. “I wrote it myself; it’s not based on any model legislation. But I think it’s comparable (to bans passed by other states).”

Gray’s first attempt at introducing a bill to block sanctuary cities during the 2018 budget session failed to get the two-thirds vote needed for introduction. This year, his bill’s latest incarnation, House Bill 151, didn’t face that hurdle and made it out of the House Corporations Committee on a 5-4 vote, only to be defeated in the House by a vote of 22 to 36.

Gray said he was “disturbed” by that vote, stressing that while Wyoming doesn’t presently have any sanctuary city policies in place — Jackson was erroneously listed as one back in 2010 — there’s no good reason to leave that option on the table.

Byron Oedekoven, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, said his association’s members largely consider the issue a moot point given the lack of any meaningful push for sanctuary city policies in Wyoming. His bigger concern, he said, would be if the Legislature were to try to prohibit local law enforcement from cooperating with the feds.

“If they said ‘let’s do the opposite’ and they create a sanctuary law saying we couldn’t cooperate with the fed, we would be diametrically opposed to that,” Oedekoven said. “By virtue of our position and oath of office, we want to uphold the law; and the law is, if you have a warrant for the guy and he’s supposed to be arrested, we would want to see him arrested.”

Dave Fraser, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Municipalities, said his group took a “monitor” position on Gray’s bill in the previous session – effectively a neutral stance – also citing the lack of any real sanctuary city push among WAM’s membership. That said, Fraser expects the bill, or rather its potential successor, may get some attention at WAM’s annual membership convention next month in Sheridan.

“I’m aware of this as a national issue and I understand that some of our state representatives may want to take positions on that; but for our part, I’m not sure we would object to such legislation if none of our cities intended to go that route,” Fraser said. “If our cities were contemplating it, that would influence how active we would be on taking a position on that.”

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