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A hard life on the border: Sheriff, state rep. visit Cochise County, Ariz.

Arizona county is hotbed for illegal immigration along U.S.-Mexico boundary.

COCHISE COUNTY, Ariz. — For more than a century, people have come to this arid expanse of land seeking their fortunes. Some found it; many others discovered hardship and danger.

In the 1800s, it was prospectors seeking silver. Cochise County is the home of Tombstone, a boomtown known best for legendary lawmen and daring gunslingers.

Today, it is the scene of a stream of immigrants crossing over illegally from Mexico, with which the county shares an 82-mile border.

“Fifty percent of all the illegal immigrants that are apprehended every year are coming through southern Arizona, through the Tucson sector (which includes Cochise),” said Carol Capas, spokeswoman for the Cochise County sheriff’s office.

Some seek a better life for their families. But local Arizona authorities say many bring with them drugs and violence — a return to lawlessness.

“Violent crime has spilled over into the United States,” Capas said of the raging drug war in Mexico.

Hamilton, Ohio, is 1,786 miles away from Bisbee, the Cochise County seat. But it’s no less a hotbed of sentiment over illegal immigration.

This week, Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones and State Rep. Courtney Combs, R- Hamilton, who are advocating for immigration reform in Ohio, will see first-hand the place where dashed hopes, desperate dreams and violent ambitions cross into this country: The U.S. border.

Sheriff, state rep. to meet with Cochise County sheriff

Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever will introduce Butler County’s sheriff and an Ohio lawmaker to the people of his county Sunday, May 23, and shed light on an issue that could frame Butler County’s future: illegal immigration.

Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones has shared the national stage with Dever in calling for immigration reform.

Earlier this month, the Butler County Jail took in 137 foreign-born criminals and fugitives arrested by federal authorities from across central and southern Ohio. Some were charged with re-entering the country illegally, others with more serious offenses.

Dever supports a controversial new Arizona law giving his deputies the authority to detain and arrest people suspected of being in the country illegally.

Jones, along with state Rep. Courtney Combs, R-Hamilton, has pledged to push for a statewide ballot initiative for a law that “mirrors” Arizona’s.

The new law has opposition. Some fear it will undermine trust in local law enforcement in immigrant communities. Others fear outright racial profiling.

“It’s a stealth assault on Latino Arizonans,” Bisbee City Council member Ray Rodgers said before the city joined Tucson and Flagstaff in denouncing the new law, according to The Sierra Vista Herald newspaper.

Combs and Jones say their trip, paid out of their own pockets, is meant to help them understand the immigration issue on the ground in a place that lives it every day.