"What happens here on the border frankly is going to impact, and is impacting, the rest of the country... Kind of snuck up on you all a little bit , but you've got it, I been saying for years, they're running over me and headed your way... Well you're the winner."
The flood of undocumented immigrants across the U.S. Mexican border in the last decade has made immigration one of the most potent issues in the political landscape. Nowhere is that more true locally than in Butler County, where Sheriff Richard Jones has made action against undocumented residents a hallmark of his administration.
A month ago, Local 12 Reporter Rich Jaffe joined Sheriff Jones and State Representative Courtney Combs on a personal tour of one part of the border, Cochise County, Arizona.
Here is one of the reports Rich prepared about that trip.
The frontline of this country's war on illegal immigration is Southern Arizona's rugged Cochise County. Officials estimate that, every day, an astounding 1,000 illegal immigrants enter this country across the county's more than 83 mile border.
10% of those caught already have serious felony histories in the U.S. and while some are looking for jobs, others are hauling tons of drugs across on a regular basis.
"Frankly the biggest burden has been to the community," said Larry Dever, Cochise County sheriff. "The disruption of normal social life. People not being able to leave home together, who have to stay home and watch their place so it's not invaded, burglarized, day and night traffic through backyards, tearing up gates and fences, and destroying water sources that are very scarce."
With only 80 deputies to cover 6,200 square miles, Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever fights a daily battle most of the country doesn't even comprehend. A recent university study found nearly 40% of Dever's department assets are being spent dealing with illegals.
"Unfortunately, when you have to say, 'yes' to these kinds of matters it means you have to say, 'no 'to other very important issues like local drug distribution, burglaries and thefts that don't get the time and attention that they need."
Just weeks ago, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones and Ohio State Representative Courtney Combs went to Arizona to search for solutions to growing immigration problems back in Ohio.
"It's just such a massive undertaking to try to stop this," said Sheriff Jones. "You can't feel it unless you've been here and seen it. You can see it on television, and talk about it until you've been here and seen it and lean on the fence, and talk to the people who do this every day. What an undertaking."
The emphasis is on trying to control and contain the flow of illegals crossing the border. In Douglas, Arizona, at the busiest border patrol station in the country, 500 agents stay busy 24/7. Cameras and lights spring up like the latest electronic crop along the desert dividing line. 4-wheel drive trucks carry night vision cameras mounted on huge masts. In a high tech surveillance center, agents watch dozens of cameras day and night. Where cameras can't see, ground sensors trigger alarms. And soon, ground radar is coming.
In the incredibly rugged Huachuca Mountains, the illegal human traffic is actually so common, the park service puts up warning signs to caution people that if they're up there, they could run into smugglers.
The biggest deterrent can be seen from miles away...the fence. It runs like an ugly seam across the Southwest border, literally a line in the sand, dividing Mexico and the United States. Where it's still under construction, nothing but a few strands of wire separate the two countries. But authorities say the new fence is working, forcing illegals away from the cities where they can blend in quickly, to the desert and mountains where patrols have more time to catch them.
"We have to know who is coming into this country, we don't know," said Courtney Combs, (R) Ohio state representative. "And we can see by where we're standing right here how easy it would be. Terrorists, people who want to do us harm, they're coming."
But not everyone in Arizona is a fan of the wall.
"People are always going to find a way over, under or around," said Emilie Vardaman, Citizens for Border Solutions. "They're being channeled into even more remote, more dangerous parts of the desert, which means I expect more people are going to die."
And die they do, routinely on the dangerous trail to freedom. Officially, these people are called "IA's," or illegal aliens.
Out of food and water, separated from the rest of their group in the Arizona desert, two men flagged down a Cochise County Sheriff's deputy for a ride back to the border. He gave them water, his lunch, and thanks to border patrol, a ride home, so they could no doubt start their journey again.
According to those on the frontline, the answer is pressure from the rest of the country, where the problem is just starting to be felt.
"We've got to educate ourselves," said Sheriff Jones. "And educate enough so we vote and put pressure on our elected officials from the city council all the way up to the president of the United States. We've got to come up with some kind of solution."
"What happens here on the border, frankly, is going to impact, and is impacting the rest of the country," said Sheriff Dever. "Kind of snuck up on you all a little bit , but you've got it. I been saying for years, they're running over me and headed your way. Well, you're the winner."
Sheriff Dever has been sounding the alarm about the immigration situation in his county since 1998. While he has given tours to numerous U.S. senators and state representatives, this was the first time that any local officials have gone to his border and looked at the situation for themselves.
I am joined this morning by the two Butler County officials who made that trip.
Since 2005 Richard Jones has served as the Sheriff of Butler Ccounty after six years as chief deputy. Before joining the Sheriff's department, Jones spent 17 years with the State Department of Corrections.
Courtney Combs is the State Representive from the 54th District of Ohio, Butler County. Mr. Combs is a real estate agent by profession.