Dennis Burke was only tapped last week to replace Arizona U.S. Attorney Diane Humetewa, but he is already laying out an agenda for the U.S. Attorney’s office with U.S.-Mexico border issues at the top, The Arizona Capitol Times reported today.
The former co-chief of staff to then-Arizona governor Janet Napolitano has advised the Obama administration on border issues since his old boss took the helm of the Department of Homeland Security Secretary. Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder have said fighting crime on the Southwest border is a top priority.
“There’s clearly been direction provided already by President Obama and Attorney General Holder as to what they want to be doing, and this is an office that is at the center of the issues of border enforcement,” Burke told The Times. “What I hope to do, if confirmed by the Senate, is to ensure that those plans and strategies are being implemented and we’re moving quickly on prosecutions.”
Holder has made a few trips to the Southwest to highlight DOJ efforts to combat border crime. The Attorney General was in Los Angeles this week to announce $8.7 million in grants to help local law enforcement officials fight border crime.
“We are intensifying our efforts to investigate, extradite, prosecute and punish the cartel leaders and their henchmen,” Holder said in prepared remarks Wednesday. ” … The routes these organizations use to traffic their drugs, guns and cash too often include the main streets of our communities – so we have increased our law enforcement presence on the Southwest border and in Mexico.”
Burke said he would accomplish his agenda by tapping into the relationships he has made with Arizona law enforcement officials during his time in state politics, according to The Times. But he will likely have problems working with controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who often butted heads with Napolitano, The Times said.
Arpaio, the self-proclaimed “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” has come under fire for implementing chain gangs, erecting a tent city for inmates and making prisoners wear pink underwear. The Justice Department is also probing him on his hard-line approach to combating illegal immigration, which we reported on here.
“There are ongoing investigations by Justice. Those are going to continue,” Burke told The Times. “It would be too hard to comment on that anyway at this stage because I’m not familiar at all with where the Department of Justice is with that investigation.”