Meet Larry Dever – An Arizona Sheriff Who's No Joe Arpaio

Arizona borderlands sheriff Larry Dever is the subject of a fascinating article in the current edition of the Phoenix New Times newspaper. Written by Paul Rubin, one of the state's most highly regarded newsmen, the piece portrays Dever as a thoughtful, nuanced hardliner on illegal immigration and contrasts him favorably with two of the state's other sheriffs — Joe Arpaio and Paul Babeu.

Dever sharply criticizes the federal government for years of policies that, he says, "leave the seed planted in the minds of everyone trying to cross that damnable desert that they can make it with impunity and without any kind of real danger or repercussions."

Personally, I think that understates the migrants' awareness of the border crossing. But Dever is right in observing that the word has gotten out that worksite enforcement remains weak or nonexistent in most areas of the country.

Georgetown University professor John Bailey, an expert on Mexico who dissents from Dever's views on immigration policy, is nevertheless an admirer. "Larry is an exceptional guy, extremely bright, and very engaging personally", Bailey told Rubin. "He thinks about things and tries to improve his position with logic, not screaming and yelling that someone with an opposite viewpoint is stupid or a nut or whatever."

Said Dever: "There are people in Cochise County and elsewhere who say that anybody who comes across the border just ought to be shot. But most folks down here still show compassion, even if it's gotten to the point where the aggressiveness of even the garden-variety illegal alien coming across just looking for work has increased."

Rubin hails Dever's "unusually complicated and thoughtful nature, which sets him apart from puffed-up publicity hounds Babeu and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio".

Rubin also contrasts the boast of Homeland Security Secretary and former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano that "the border is better now that it ever has been" with a recent report of the Justice Department's National Drug Assessment. That report says the Mexican drug cartels "are solidifying their dominance of the U.S. wholesale drug trade", in part because they have secured "access to and control of smuggling routes across the U.S. Southwest border".